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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1887, by 

in the Office of the Librarian of Congress. All rights reserved. 

Press of The Jas. B. Rodgers Printing Co. 









In IttemoriatiK 





Born in Poona, Bombay Presidency, India, March 3ist, 
1865. (Child-name, Yamuna Joshee.) 

Married Gopalrao Vinayak Joshee, March 3ist, 1874. 
(Wife-name, Anandibai Joshee.) 

Sailed from Calcutta, India, for America, April 7th, 1883, 
being the first high-caste Brahman woman to come to the 
United States. Landed in New York, June 4th, 1883. 

Graduated in medicine, from the Woman's Medical 
College of Pennsylvania, March nth, 1886, being the first 
Hindu woman to receive the Degree of Doctor of Medi- 
cine in any country. 

Appointed, June ist, 1886, to the position of Physician- 
in-Charge of the Female Ward of the Albert Edward Hos- 
pital, in the City of Kolhapur, India. 

Sailed from New York, to assume her duties in Kolha- 
pur, October gth, 1886. 

Died in Poona, India, February 26th, 1887. 


THE silence of a thousand years has been broken, 
and the reader of this unpretending little volume 
catches the first utterances of the unfamiliar voice. 
Throbbing with woe, they are revealed in the fol- 
lowing pages to intelligent, educated, happy Ameri- 
can women. 

God grant that these women, whom He has blessed 
above all women upon the earth, may not flippantly 
turn away, as they are wont to do from some over- 
pious tale, and without reading, condemn ! To begin 
this story of The High-caste Hindu Woman, and not 
to read it through attentively to the last word of the 
agonized appeal, is to invoke upon oneself the divine 
displeasure meted out to those who disregard the 
cry of "him that had none to help him." These 
lines are written with deep emotion ; the blinding 
tears which fall upon the page are the saddest tears 
my eyes have ever wept. 

From childhood I had been familiar with the state- 
ments concerning the condition of the native women 
of India. My sympathies had always been with 


ii Introduction. 

them, and my annual offering to the treasury of mis- 
sionary societies which worked among them, had 
never been omitted ; but in September, 1883, there 
came to my door a little lady in a blue cotton saree, 
accompanied by her faithful friend, Mrs. B. F. Car- 
penter, of Roselle, New Jersey, and since that hour, 
when, speechless for very wonder, I bestowed a kiss 
of welcome upon the stranger's cheek in lieu of 
words, I have loved the women of India. The little 
lady was Mrs. Anandibai Joshee. Less than three 
months ago, the wealthy and conservative city of 
Poona, India, which gave her birth, was stirred as 
never before to honor a woman, and amid the pomp 
of Brahmanical funeral rites performed by orthodox 
Hindu priests, her funeral pile was lighted from the 
sacred fire, in the presence of a great throng of sor- 
rowing Hindus. She sealed with her early death the 
superhuman effort to elevate her countrywomen and 
to minister in her own person to their physical 

To witness Dr. Joshee's graduation in medicine, 
there came to Philadelphia from England her kins- 
woman, Pundita Ramabai Sarasvati. The two ladies 
never met until they greeted each other under my 
roof, March 6th, 1886 ; but, as kindred spirits, they 
had corresponded for several years. Strangely enough, 
each left India without the knowledge of the other, 
and within the same month, Mrs. Joshee sailing from 
Calcutta and the Pundita from Bombay. The day 
that Mrs. Joshee left Liverpool for New York, Rama- 
bai and her little daughter landed in England. The 
reception of the two ladies in the summer of 1883, 
one in England and the other in the United States, 
was most cordial ; and, comforted and blessed as nei- 
ther had dared to anticipate before leaving India, 
each settled down to work with industry and with 

Introduction. iii 

a degree of intelligence which was a revelation to on- 

My own personal experience relates to her who fell 
to our lot in the college in Philadelphia. She tried 
faithfully, this little woman of eighteen, to prosecute 
her studies, and at the same time to keep caste-rules 
and cook her own food ; but the anthracite coal-stove 
in her room was a constant vexation, and likewise a 
source of danger ; and the solitude of the individual 
house-keeping was overwhelming. In her father's 
house, the congregate system, referred to in this 
book, prevailed ; and, being a man of means, the 
family was always large. Later, when under her hus- 
band's care, he had been in the postal service, and 
the dwelling apartments were in the same building 
with the post-office ; hence she had never known 
complete solitude. After a trial of two weeks, her 
health declined to such an alarming extent that I 
invited her to pay a short visit in my home, and she 
never left it again to dwell elsewhere in Philadelphia 
during her student residence. In the performance of 
college duties, going in and out, and up and down, 
always in her measured, quiet, dignified, patient way, 
she has filled every room, as well as the stairways 
and halls, with memories which now hallow the 
home, and must continue so to do throughout the 
years to come. 

In the spring of 1884, Mrs. Joshee accepted an in- 
vitation to address an audience of ladies convened for 
a missionary anniversary, and she chose as her sub- 
ject "Child Marriage," and surprised her great audi- 
ence by defending the national custom. If there are 
any who still cherish the feelings of disappointment 
and regret engendered that April afternoon, let them 
turn to Ramabai's chapter on Married Life in this 
book, and learn how absolutely impossible it was for 

iv Introduction. 

a high-caste Hindu wife to speak otherwise. Let 
them also discover, in the herculean attempt of that 
occasion, a clue to the influences which at length 
overpowered and slew this gentle, grave woman. 

" I will go (to America) as a Hindu, and come 
back and live among my people as a Hindu." 
Brave, patriotic words ! a resolve which was carried 
out to the death. Ramabai's chapter on Married 
Life, the married life of a Hindu woman in the year 
1887, no less than in past centuries, reveals to the 
Western reader what it was for this refined, intellec- 
tual woman, whose faculties developed rapidly under 
Western opportunities, and whose scientific acquire- 
ments placed her high in rank among her peers 
in the college class, to accept again the position 
awarded her by the Code of Manu (Manu ix. 22 ; see 
page 40). That she did accept it, that "until death 
she was patient of hardships, self-controlled, . . . and 
strove to fulfill that most excellent duty which is 
prescribed for wives," is undoubted. She battled 
hand to hand with every circumstance, resolved, as a 
Hindu, to live and work for the uplifting of her 
sisters, but all in vain ! 

After years ,of exile, she found herself once more in 
the familiar places of her childhood, surrounded by 
her mother and maternal grandmother and sisters. 
She had returned to them too late to admit of the re- 
storation of her appetite by the nourishing food their 
skillful hands knew how to prepare ; but in love they 
watched beside her, and it was the dear mother's priv- 
ilege to support the daughter in her arms when at 
midnight the end came quickly. This occurred Febru- 
ary 26th, 1887, in the city of Poona, in the house in 
which she was born. Previous to the cremation of the 
body, which took place the morning following her 
death, her husband had a photograph taken of "mat- 

Introduction. v 

ter before it was transformed into vapor and ashes." 
The pathos of that lifeless form is indescribable. The 
last of several pictures, taken during the brief public 
career of the little reformer, it is the most eloquent of 
them all. The mute lips, and the face, wan and wasted 
and prematurely aged in the fierce battle with sorrow 
and pain, alike convey to her American friends this 
message, not to be forgotten: "I have done all that 
I could do." Ah ! who will thus early dare to say 
that she has not accomplished more by her death 
than she might have accomplished by a long life? 
Herself and husband returned from a foreign land, 
where they had dwelt with a strange people, ought, 
by Hindu custom, to have been treated as outcasts, 
and their shadows shunned. Instead, when it was 
known that the distinguished young Hindu doctor 
had reached her early home, old and young, ortho- 
dox and non-orthodox, came to pay friendly visits 
and to extend a cordial welcome. 

Even the reformers were astounded when they be- 
held the manner in which the travelers were treated 
by the most orthodox families. The papers from day 
to day chronicled the state of the invalid's health, 
and when at length she passed away, several of the 
journals of Poona printed in the vernacular, contained 
under symbols of mourning, eulogistic notices of her 
character and work. Ramabai has translated two of 
these for me, and from them I make extracts : 

"Dr. Anandibai Joshee has left us to abide in the 
next world ; but the example she has set will not be 
fruitless. It is indeed wonderful that a Brahman lady 
has proved to the world that the great qualities per- 
severance, unselfishness, undaunted courage and an 
eager desire to serve one's country do exist in the 
so-called weaker sex. We ought as a people to do 
something that will remind us of her and bear wit- 

vi Introduction. 

ness forever to her wondrous virtues ; in our opinion, 
this debt of gratitude to Anandibai cannot be better 
discharged than by providing a lady, who will be 
willing to study medicine, with all the pecuniary aid 
necessary. Thus may the memory of the late dis- 
tinguished lady be perpetuated." Kesari, February 
27, 1887. 

' ' One of the great and grievous losses which our 
unfortunate Hindustan incessantly sustains was wit- 
nessed by Poona, we grieve to say, on Saturday last, 
when Dr. Anandibai Jpshee was summoned from this 
world late in the midnight. She has been residing in 
Poona for the last two months ; she came hither in 
the hope that her native city, which has many re- 
nowned pln'sicians residing in it, might prove for her 
a healthy place, and that the pleasant weather and 
home influences would all contnbute towards improv- 
ing her health. The hopeful expectations of her 
countrywomen, who had looked forward to the day 
when they would be benefited by Dr. Joshee's remark- 
able ability and well-earned knowledge, are now wholly 

"Although Anandibai was so young, her persever- 
ance, undaunted courage and devotion to her husband 
were unparalleled. We think it will be long before 
we shall again see a woman like her in this country. 
We do not hesitate to say that Dr. Joshee is worthy 
of a high place on the roll of historic women who 
have striven to serve and to elevate their native land. 
The education that she had received had 
greatly heightened her nature and ennobled her mind. 
Although she suffered more than words can express 
from her mortal disease, phthisis, not a word either 
of complaint or impatience escaped her lips at any time. 
After months of dreadful suffering she was reduced 
to skin and bone, and every one that looked at her 
could not but be greatly pained ; yet, wonderful to 
relate, Anandibai thought it her present duty to suffer 
silently and cheerfully. . . . After the picture was 
taken, her relatives bathed the body and decked it 
with bright garments and ornaments, according to 
Hindu custom. There was no time to spread the sad 
news throughout the city, but as many as heard it 

Introduction. vii 

accompanied her remains to the cremation ground, 
thus showing the respectful affection they felt for 
her. Some people had feared that the priests might 
raise objections to cremating her body in the sacred 
fire, according to the Hindu rites ; but these fears 
proved groundless. Not only on the occasion of her 
cremation, but earlier during her lifetime, when her 
husband offered sacrifices to the gods and the guard- 
ian planets to avert their anger and her death, the 
priests showed no sign of any prejudice against 
them ; they gladly officiated in the religious sacrifices, 
thus affording a remarkable proof of their advanced 
views. After the body was placed upon the funeral 
pile Mr. V. M. Ranade made an oration in Dr. Joshee's 
honor, and the cremation was then completed without 
hindrance." Dnyana Chakshu> March 2nd, 1887. 

The general public interest in the person and work 
of Dr. Joshee is a sufficient reason for presenting in 
this introductory chapter the above details, which 
have not elsewhere been given to her American 
friends. Pundita Ramabai, her beloved and trusted 
kinswoman, still lives to perform, not her identical 
work, but to prosecute the general disenthrallment of 
Hindu women, concerning the ultimate accomplish- 
ment of which Dr. Joshee cherished invincible faith. 
Greatly bereaved, her fond hopes of a congenial sup- 
porter and an efficient helper in India suddenly dashed 
to the ground, Ramabai toils on with a heroic single- 
ness of purpose. It is in the prosecution of this one 
supreme object of helping her countrywomen to a 
better and higher life that this little book has been 
written. In her contact with American philanthro- 
pists and educators, during the year of her sojourn 
in the United States, Ramabai has found popular 
ideas concerning the women of India erroneous, and 
it is to correct these, and also to reveal fully their 
needs, that the following chapters have been prepared. 

She has written in the belief that if the depths of 

viii Introduction. 

the thralldom in which the dwellers in Indian zena- 
nas are held by cruel superstition and social customs 
were only fathomed, the light and love in American 
homes, which have so comforted her burdened heart, 
might flow forth in an overwhelming tide to bless all 
Indian women. The task of preparing The High-caste 
Hindu Woman has not been for her a congenial one. 
She is not by nature an iconoclast. She loves her 
nation with a pure, strong love. But her love has 
reached the height where it is akin to the motive of 
the skillful surgeon : she dares to inflict pain because 
she regards pain as affording the only sure means of 
relief. She is satisfied, moreover, that India cannot 
arise and take her place among the nations of the 
earth until she, too, has mothers ; until the Hindu 
zenana is transformed into the Hindu home, where 
the united family can have "pleasant times to- 
gether" (see p. 48). 

The experiment of bringing the existing condition 
of high-caste Hindu women to the test of codes of 
sacred law, it is believed, was never before attempted. 
The reader will bear in mind, as she cons the care- 
fully selected texts from the Code of Manu which 
abound throughout the volume, that these are sen- 
tences too sacred for feminine lips to utter, and that 
few women in India have ever heard them, much 
less have beheld them with their own eyes. Even 
Ananta Shastri, liberal as he was in his views con- 
cerning the education of women, withheld the sacred 
texts from his wife and daughters. The Sanskrit 
literature accessible to them, consisted of poems not 
associated with sacred rites and ceremonies. Rama- 
bai never saw a copy of the Code of Manu until after 
her scholastic attainments had been publicly recog- 
nized in Calcutta. 

She has exercised great care in securing correctness 

Introduction. ix 

in her quotations, diligently comparing translations, 
where more than one were available, and in some 
cases making the translation herself from the original 
Sanskrit. The general statements throughout the 
book may be relied upon for their accuracy. Should 
the volume reach India, these statements will undoubt- 
edly be assailed as untruthful and sacrilegious, and 
possibly there may be persons in the United States 
who will strive to create this impression ; but Rama- 
bai's desire to speak the truth is only equalled by 
her determination to let in the full blaze of day upon 
effete customs and perilous usages. She has withheld 
nothing essential that her wide experience through- 
out India has revealed to her. She does not print 
this information for the purpose of reputation or of 
gain, but because taught, as she believes, by the Di- 
vine Spirit, that the revelation will stir the hearts of 
those who read the story to deeds of rescue and relief. 

There are readers who, upon the title-page of this 
book, will see the Pundita's name for the first time, 
and all such will naturally inquire, Who is * she? 
In view of the fact, that she seeks to assume grave 
responsibilities before the American public this ques- 
tion is legitimate, and therefore, at the risk of grow- 
ing tedious, I will endeavor to make answer. It is 
a weird beginning of a life-sketch to ask the in- 
quirer to turn to page 37 and read of an occurrence, 
in the early morning, on the banks of the sacred 
river Godavari. The fine-looking man who came to 
the river-side to bathe was the learned Ananta Shastri, 
and the little girl of nine, whom he carried away the 
day following as his child-bride, was Ramabai's mo- 
ther. This Brahman pundit, who "well and tenderly 
cared for the little girl beyond all expectation," was 
a native of the Mangalore district in Western India. 

x Introduction. 

In his boyhood, when about ten years of age, he had 
been married, and had brought his child-bride to his 
mother's house and committed the little girl to her 
keeping. He, however, was possessed with a desire 
for the acquisition of knowledge, and attracted by the 
fame of Ramachandra Shastri, a distinguished scholar, 
who dwelt in Poona, he early made his way thither, 
and sought his instruction. This eminent Brahman 
had been employed by the reigning Peshwa to visit 
his palace statedly, and give Sanskrit lessons to a fa- 
vorite wife. The student Ananta was privileged to 
accompany his teacher, and, thus going in and out 
of the palace, he occasionally heard the lady reciting 
Sanskrit poems. 

The boy was filled with wonder that a woman 
should be so learned, and as time wore on, astonish- 
ment gave place to admiration of her learning, and 
he resolved that he would teach his little wife just as 
the Shastri taught the fair Rani of the palace. His 
student-life ended at the age of twenty-three, and he 
hastened to his native village to incorporate education 
with his duties as a householder. But the bride had 
no desire to be instructed ; his mother and all the elders 
of the family demurred, and the husband was compelled 
to desist.' The married life went on, children were born 
to the young couple, and at length the wife died. 
The widower had not forgotten the Peshwa' s palace 
in Poona and the Sanskrit poems, and he resolved to 
begin his next experiment early. 

We learn from the printed page how he accepted 
the little bride of nine who was offered to him, and 
carried her to his distant home ; there he delivered 
her to his mother, and immediately began to teach 
her Sanskrit. But the elders of the household ob- 
jected as before ; the little wife was too young to have 
a voice in the matter, and the husband resolved that 

Introduction. xi 

the experiment of the girl's edxtcation should be 
faithfully carried out. He therefore left the valley 
and civilization below him, and journeyed upward 
with his young wife to the forest of Gungamul, on 
a remote plateau of the Western Ghauts, and literally 
in the jungle, took up his abode. Ramabai relates 
as a memory of her childhood her mother's recital of 
how the first night was spent in the sylvan solitude, 
without shelter of any kind. A great tiger came with 
the darkness, and from across a ravine, made the 
night hideous with its cries. The little bride wrapped 
herself up tight in her pasodi (cotton quilt) and lay 
upon the ground convulsed with terror, while the 
husband kept watch until daybreak, when the hungry 
beast disappeared. The wild animals of the jungle 
were all about them, and hourly terrified the lonely 
little girl ; but the lessons went on without hindrance, 
and day by day the wife, Lakshmibai, grew in stature 
and in knowledge. A rude dwelling was constructed, 
and after a few years little children came to the home 
in the forest, one son and two daughters. The father 
devoted himself to the education of the son and elder 
daughter, and also to that of young men who, as stu- 
dents, sought out the now famous Brahman priest, 
whose dwelling-place in the mountains, at the source 
of one of the rivers, was regarded as sacred, and hence 
a place of pilgrimage for the pious. When Rama- 
bai, the youngest child, was born, in April, 1858, the 
father was quite too much occupied to instruct her, 
and, moreover, he was growing old. Upon her mother, 
therefore, devolved the instruction in Sanskrit. 

The resident students and the visiting pilgrims and 
the aged father and mother-in-law, now members 
of the family, as well as the children of the house- 
hold, entailed many cares upon the educated Hindu 
mother, and the only time that could be found for the 

xii Introduction. 

little daughter's lessons was in the morning twilight, 
before the toilsome day had dawned. Ramabai recalls 
with emotion that early instruction while held in her 
dear mother's arms. The little maiden, heavy with 
sleep, was tenderly lifted from her bed upon the earth, 
and wakened with many endearments and sweet 
mother-words ; and then, while the birds about them 
in the forest chirped their morning songs, the lessons 
were repeated, no other book than the mother's lips 
being used. It is these lessons of the early morning, 
statedly renewed with each recurrent day, that con- 
stitute the fountain-head of the "sweet influences and 
able instruction" which, in the dedicatory page of this 
book, the author characterizes as "the light and guide 
of my life." 

But this was a Hindu home, not an American home 
where such kindly care and wise parental love would 
have borne for the parents refreshing fruit in their old 
age. The father, under the iron rule of custom, had 
given his elder daughter in marriage when very young, 
and upon pages 62 and 63 we learn the nature of the 
sorrows which overtook the family ; previous to this, 
however, the popularity of the Shastri as a teacher, 
and his sacred locality in the wilderness, had in- 
volved him in debt ; for guests must be fed and duties 
enjoined by religion performed, at whatever pecuniary 
loss. The half of his landed property in his native 
village, which was to be the portion of the son by the 
second wife, was, with the son's consent, sold to dis- 
charge the debts, and then the family, homeless, set 
out upon pilgrimages. It is difficult for the Western 
reader, with whom the word home is inseparable from 
family existence, to realize that this Hindu family 
were thus employed seven years, Ramabai being nine 
years of age when they set out. 

But all the while as this Marathi priest and his wife 

Introduction. xiii 

and children wandered from one sacred locality to the 
next, having no certain dwelling-place, the early morn- 
ing lessons were continued, and Ramabai, developing 
rare talent, became, under the instructions of father 
and mother, "a prodigy of erudition." Engrossed in 
her studies, she was allowed to remain single until the 
age of sixteen, when, within a month and a half of 
each other, her parents died. 

"From my earliest years," Ramabai states, "I al- 
ways had a love of books. Though I was not formally 
taught Marathi, yet hearing my father and mother 
speak it and being in the habit of reading newspapers 
and books in that language, I acquired a correct 
knowledge of it. In this manner I acquired also the 
knowledge of Kanarese, Hindustani and Bengali while 
traveling about. My father and mother did not do 
with me as others were in the habit of doing with their 
daughters, i. e., throw me into the well of ignorance 
by giving me in marriage in my infancy. In this my 
parents were both of one mind." When death invaded 
the pilgrim household, the father, bowed with age and 
now totally blind for several years, was taken first ; in 
six weeks the mother followed. The poverty of the 
family was extreme ; consequently, Brahmans could 
not be secured to bear the remains to the burning- 
ghat, which was three miles distant from the scene of 
the mother's death. At length two Brahmans were 
found who took pity upon them, and with the assist- 
ance of these men, the devoted son and daughter them- 
selves carried the precious burden to the distant place 
of cremation, Ramabai's low stature compelling the 
bearing of her share of the burden upon her head. 
Why do I recount this passage of nameless woe? 
Why? Because we American women, in our own 
homes, have never before looked into the face of one 
upon whom a ministry of sorrow so overwhelming as 

xiv Introduction. 

this has been laid, and we need, in our prosperity, 
to realize that God hath made of one blood all nations 
of men. The lovely woman who writes this book in 
the city of Philadelphia and the beloved mother to 
whom she dedicates it were in the forest of Gungamul 
and in the later, dusty paths of pilgrimage alike des- 
titute of the true knowledge of God ; but, in their 
great spiritual darkness, they ministered to and mu- 
tually loved and cherished each other with that mater- 
nal and filial affection which is the same the world 

After the death of the parents and the elder sister, 
Ramabai and her brother continued to travel. They 
visited many countries on the great continent of India, 
the Punjab, Rajputana, the Central Provinces, Assam, 
Bengal and Madras, and, as pilgrims, were often in 
want and distress. They spent their time in advo- 
cating female education, i. e., that before marriage 
high-caste Hindu girls should be instructed in San- 
skrit and in their vernacular, according to the ancient 

When, in their journeying, they at length reached 
Calcutta, the young Sanskrit scholar and lecturer cre- 
ated a sensation by her advanced views and her 
scholarship. She was summoned before the assembled 
pundits of the capital city ; and as a result of their 
examination the distinguished title of Sarasvati was 
publicly conferred upon her by them. Soon after, her 
brother died. ' ' His great thought during his brief 
illness," she writes, "was for me; what would be- 
come of me left alone in the world ? When he spoke 
of his anxiety, I answered : ' There is no one but God 
to care for you and me.' 'Ah,' he answered, 'then 
if God cares for us, I am afraid of nothing.' And, 
indeed, in my loneliness, it seemed as if God was near 
me; I felt His presence." "After six months I mar- 

Introduction. xv 

ried a Bengali gentleman, Bipin Bihari Medhavi, M.A., 
B.L., a Vakil and a graduate of the Calcutta Univer- 
sity. But we neither of us believed either in Hin- 
duism or Christianity, and so we were married with 
the civil marriage rite. . . . After nineteen months 
of happy married life, my dear husband died of cholera. 
This great grief drew me nearer to God. I felt that He 
was teaching me, and that if I was to come to Him, 
He must Himself draw me." A few months before the 
husband's death a little daughter was born in the 
happy home a daughter greatly desired by both father 
and mother before her birth, and hence, she found a 
beautiful name awaiting her, Manorama (Heart's Joy}. 

The widow Ramabai now returned to her former oc- 
cupation as a lecturer. It became her especial mission 
to advocate the cause of Hindu women, according to 
what she believed to be the true rendering of the an- 
cient Shastras, in opposition to the degraded notions 
of modern times. Her earnestness and enthusiasm 
gained her many admirers, among whom was Dr. W. 
W. Hunter, prominently connected with the British 
educational interests of India. He thought her career 
and the good she was doing so well worthy of admira- 
tion that he made her the subject of a lecture delivered 
in Edinburgh. 

"When I spoke," says Dr. Hunter, "of a high-caste 
Indian lady being thus employed, that great English 
audience rose as one man and applauded the efforts 
which the Pundita Ramabai was making on behalf of 
her countrywomen." Henceforth her name was well 
known in England, as well as in India, to all who were 
interested in the social amelioration of the people of 

With a view to improve the degraded condition of 
her countrywomen, she formed in Poona a society of 
ladies, known as the Arya Mahila Somaj, whose ob- 

xvi Introduction. 

ject was the promotion of education among native 
women, and the discouragement of child-marriage. 
She then went from city to city throughout the Bom- 
bay Presidency, establishing branch societies and arous- 
ing the people by her eloquent appeals. When the 
English Education Commission visited Poona in Sep- 
tember, 1882, for the purpose of inspecting the educa- 
tional institutions of that city, the leading Brahman 
ladies, members of the newly- formed society and others, 
to the number of about three hundred, assembled with 
their children in the Town Hall, to welcome the Com- 
mission and to show them that, although the munici- 
pality had not encouraged girls' schools, a genuine 
movement was being inaugurated by the best families 
of the Marathi country. Pundita Ramabai was the 
orator of the occasion. 

Dr. Hunter, as President of the Education Commis- 
sion, made Ramabai the prominent figure among the 
many noteworthy persons who were examined before 
him during that visit. He regarded her evidence as of 
so much importance that he caused it to be translated 
from the Marathi and separately printed. A copy of 
this India print is before me as I write. There are 
three questions, viz. : 

Question i. State what opportunities you have had of forming an 
opinion on the subject of Education in India, and in what province 
your experience has been gained? 

Here follows, in reply, a brief, but remarkably clear, 
narrative of her parentage, her father's views, those of 
her brother, also a statement in regard to her husband, 
and the vicissitudes of her life ; all of which, she 
stated, had afforded her many opportunities of form- 
ing an opinion on the subject of Female Education in 
.different provinces of India. She closes thus : 

'"I am .the child of a man who had to sufier a great deal on account 

Introduction. xvii 

of advocating Female Education, and who was compelled to discuss 
the subject, as well as to carry out his own views, amidst great oppo- 
sition. ... I consider it my duty, to the very end of my life, to 
maintain this cause, and to advocate the proper position of women 
in this land." 

Question 2. What is the best method of providing teachers for girls ? 

Answer 2. It appears to me evident that the women who are to be- 
come teachers of others should have a special training for that work. 
Besides having a correct knowledge of their own language, they ought 
to acquire English. Whether those training to be female teachers are 
married or unmarried, or widows, they ought to be correct in their 
conduct and morals, and they ought also to be of respectable families. 
They ought to be provided with good scholarships. Teachers of girls 
also ought to have higher salaries than those of boys, as they should be 
of a superior character and position. The students should live in the 
college compound, so as to have their manners and habits improved, 
and there ought to be a large building with every appliance for the 
comfort of the teachers and students. They ought to have a native lady 
of good position over them. Mere learning is not enough ; the conduct 
and morals of the students should be attended to. 

Question 3. What do you regard as the chief defects, other than any 
to which you have already referred, that experience has brought to light 
in the educational system as it has been hitherto administered ? What 
suggestions have you to make for the remedy of such defects ? 

Answer 3. There ought to be female inspectresses over female 
schools. These ought to be of the age of thirty or upwards, and of a 
very superior class, and highly educated, whether Native or European. 
Male inspectors are unsuitable for the following reasons : (i) The wo- 
men of this country are very timid. If a male inspector goes into a 
female school, all the women and girls are thrown into confusion, and 
are unable to speak. The inspector seeing this state of things will 
write a bad report of the school and teachers, and so in all probability 
Government will appoint a male teacher for that school, and so the 
school will not have the advantage of a female teacher. As the educa- 
tion of girls is different from that of boys, female schools ought to be in 
the hands of female teachers. (2) The second reason is this. In ninety- 
nine cases out of a hundred, the educated men of this country are op- 
posed to Female Education and the proper position of woman. If they 
observe the slightest fault, they magnify the grain of mustard-seed into 
a mountain, and try to ruin the character of a woman ; often the poor 
woman, not being very courageous, and well informed, her character is 
completely broken. Men being more able to reach the authorities are 
believed, while women go to the wall. Both should be alike to a pa- 
rental Government, whose children, male and female, should be treated 
with equal justice. It is evident that women, being one-half of the 
people of this country, are oppressed and cruelty treated by the other 
half. To put a stop to this anomaly is worthy of a good Government. 
Another suggestion I would make is with regard to lady-doctors. 
Though in Hindustan there are numbers of gentleman-doctors, there 
are no ladies of that profession. The women of this country are much 
more reserved than in other countries, and most of them would rather 
die than speak of their ailments to a man. The want of lady-doctors is, 
therefore, the cause of hundreds of thousands of women dying prema- 
ture deaths. I would, therefore, earnestly entreat of our Government 
to make provision for the study of medicine by women, and thus save 
the lives of those multitudes. The want of lady-doctors is one very 
much felt and is a great defect in the Education of the women of this 

xviii Introduction. 

The answers to these questions are introduced in full, 
as bearing valuable and ample testimony to the char- 
acter, and the position before the public, of Ramabai in 
her own country. Upon the authority of the Times 
of India, it may be stated that her plea for women-phy- 
sicians before the Commission, in September, 1882, (See 
Answer 3), is believed to have attracted the attention 
of her gracious Majesty, the Queen-Empress, and to 
have been indirectly the origin of the movement in 
Hindustan which, in its latest developments, has 
reached the noble proportions of The National Associa- 
tion for Supplying Female Medical Aid to the Women 
of India, popularly known as the " Countess of Dufferin 
Movement," from its distinguished president, the wife 
of the Viceroy of India. 

Ramabai now realized that she herself needed per- 
sonal training to enable her to prosecute with success 
her work among the women of India in behalf of edu- 
cation. Then, too, as she had in her experience be- 
come conscious of God's guidance, her spirit was pos- 
sessed of that unrest which is the solemn movement 
of the soul Godward, seeking "thelyord if haply she 
(they) might feel after Him and find Him." " I felt a 
restless desire to go to England," she writes. " I could 
not have done this unless I had felt that my faith in 
God had become strong : it is such a great step for a 
Hindu woman to cross the sea ; one cuts oneself al- 
ways off from one's people. But the voice came to 
me as to Abraham. ... It seems to me now very 
strange how I could have started as I did with my 
friend and little child throwing myself on God's pro- 
tection. I went forth as Abraham, not knowing 
whither I went. When I reached England, the Sis- 
ters in St. Mary's Home at Wantage kindly received 
me. There I gradually learned to feel the truth of 
Christianity, and to see that it is a philosophy, teach- 

Introduction. xix 

ing truths higher than I had ever known in all our sys- 
tems ; to see that it gives not only precepts, but a per- 
fect example ; that it does not give us precepts and an 
example only, but assures us of divine grace, by which 
we can follow that example." True to her honest na- 
ture, she acted promptly upon her convictions and em- 
braced Christianity, and she and her little daughter 
were baptized in the Church of England, September 
29th, 1883. Henceforth she devoted herself to edu- 
cational work. The first year was spent at Wantage 
in the study of the English language, which hitherto 
had been unknown to her. Acquiring this, she 
entered, September, 1884, the Ladies' College at Chel- 
tenham, where a position was assigned her as Pro- 
fessor of Sanskrit. Her unoccupied time was spent as 
a student of the college, in the study of mathematics, 
natural science, and English literature. Her opportu- 
nities at Cheltenham College were of the highest order, 
and the influence of the noble Christian women with 
whom she was associated, both there and at Wantage, 
was most refined and salutary in its character. She 
made rapid progress in her studies, and a possible Gov- 
ernment educational appointment in India loomed up 
in the near future, when an invitation reached her to 
witness Mrs. Joshee's graduation in medicine in Phila- 
delphia, March nth, 1886, 

That "holy land called America" had long held at- 
tractions for her, and these were now heightened by 
the presence and work of her beloved kinswoman. 
After some weeks of painful indecision, she decided to 
accept the invitation, her sole reason for allowing her 
studies to be interrupted thus inopportunely being 
her thorough conviction that it was her duty in the 
interests of her countrywomen to visit America at 
that time. In February, 1886, she again embarked 
upon an unknown sea, accompanied by her young 

xx Introduction. 

daughter, then nearly five years of age. Her residence 
in America and her public service here have been 
widely chronicled in the daily and weekly journals, 
and are not therefore a matter of private record. In 
the beginning she expected to return to England after 
a brief vacation, and there resume her studies ; but, 
as the genius of American institutions was revealed 
through personal inspection, her interest grew, and 
she decided to prolong her stay. In midsummer she 
wrote: "I am deeply impressed by and am interested 
in the work of Western women, who seem to have one 
common aim, namely, the good of their fellow-beings. 
It is my dream some day to tell my countrywomen in 
their own languages this wonderful story, in the hope 
that the recital may awaken in their hearts a desire to 
do likewise." As her contact with a public educational 
system which included girls as well as boys was pro- 
longed, her old desire to benefit her countrywomen by 
founding schools which combined the training of the 
hand with that of the head revived, and forsaking plans 
which regarded only the higher education of the few 
women in government high-schools or colleges in India, 
she concentrated her thoughts upon native schools 
founded by and for native women . Early in her resi- 
dence in Philadelphia she met Miss Anna Hallowell, 
prominently identified with the Sub-Primary School 
Society (free kindergartens) of the city. This distin- 
guished lady kindly accompanied her to several of 
the kindergartens, and explained methods to her with 
care, and also the principles upon which the system 
was based. Ramabai's enthusiasm was aroused as 
she saw in Froebel's teaching wondrous possibilities 
for her little widows. Purchasing without delay the 
most approved text-books and the "gifts," she set her- 
self to work to translate into Indian thought the games 
and tokens of the system, in order that she might 

Introduction. xxi 

adapt it to Hindu needs. In September, 1886, she 
promptly enrolled herself as a student in a kindergar- 
ten training-school, and, as her public duties have per- 
mitted, she has faithfully pursued the course of study 
throughout the scholastic year just ending. Ameri- 
can school-books were a revelation to her in the beauty 
of their illustrations and of their letter-press and the 
quality of the paper upon which they are printed. In 
July, 1886, she set herself to work upon a series of 
Marathi school-books for girls, modeled after the Amer- 
ican idea, beginning with a primer and continuing 
regularly up to a reader of the sixth grade. She was 
enthusiastic as to results, designing to illustrate with 
American wood-cuts, although the printing would ne- 
cessarily be delayed until Bombay is reached, on ac- 
count of the Marathi type required. The primer was 
soon finished, and much of the material for the reading 
books prepared, when a prudent investigation was in- 
stituted as to the cost of illustrations, and the stern 
fact revealed that the charming pictures were far too 
expensive to be dreamed of for her books. 

Thus the case stands June ist, 1887. Pundita Rama- 
bai, the high-caste Brahman woman, the courageous 
daughter of the forest, educated, refined, rejoicing in 
the liberty of the Gospel, and yet by preference retain- 
ing a Hindu's care as regards a vegetable diet, and 
the peculiarities of the dress of Hindu widowhood, 
solemnly consecrated to the work of developing self- 
help among the women of India, has her school-books 
nearly ready for the printer, her plans for the organiza- 
tion of a school, such as she describes on page 1 14, 
well developed, and two teachers (American ladies, 
one a graduated kindergartner) secured. Tickets for 
herself and teachers might be taken for India at once, 
and as a result of the strong reaction which the un- 
timely death of Dr. Joshee has set up, Ramabai, outcast 

xx ii Introduction. 

though she is among her own people, might inaugurate, 
under favorable auspices, her work among the child- 

But the money is wanting. In 1793, when William 
Carey, the first English missionary to Asia, was about 
to set sail for India, he said to those about him, " I will 
go down into the deep mine, but remember that you 
must hold the ropes." As I close this chapter, the 
longing fills my soul that among the favored women 
of this Christian land there might be found a sufficient 
number to hold the ropes for Ramabai, making it pos- 
sible for her to go out quickly to her God-inspired work. 
It must not be a fitful benefaction of a few hundred or 
even of a few thousand dollars, but a steady holding on 
to the ropes, for a period of not less than ten years. 
They must not be let go while she in the throes of a 
death-struggle with superstition and caste prejudice, 
and feminine unwillingness to rise, is fastened to the 
India end. 

A decade of years ago, no sane woman would have 
presumed to appeal to the women and young girls of 
this land to engage in a project such as this of Ramabai, 
as I now do. But how rapidly we are moving on in 
these last days ! We read in prophecy that " the earth 
shall be made to bring forth in one day," and "a na- 
tion shall be born at once ;" and another sure word is 
written, "the people shall be willing in the day of His 
power." When in that great Hindu nation about to 
come to the birth, the women are moved to arise in 
their degradation, and themselves utter the feeble cry, 
" Help or we perish !" it cannot be otherwise than that 
a corresponding multitude of women must be found 
elsewhere, willing, in the day of God's power, to send 
the help. 

There have long been in every community, women 
who are not in accord with the so-called missionary 

Introduction. xxiii 

societies, and who never contribute to the enlighten- 
ment or to the material aid of Oriental women. Rama- 
bai's boarding-school for child- widows, primarily an 
educational scheme, may be safely taken up by such, 
and while they organize, and after the manner of the 
women's boards of the churches, through a great net- 
work of auxiliary societies, prosecute with growing 
interest and zeal their child-widow school work, mis- 
sionary work so-called, may be continued by the socie- 
ties of every denomination, each according to its own 
methods, the treasuries of all being alike full. 

The Pundita bears witness, in public and in private, to 
the good accomplished in the East by missionary lady- 
teachers, and it is her earnest desire not to affect unfa- 
vorably in any manner, however remote, either the 
treasury or the work of church societies. She seeks to 
reach Hindu women as Hindus, to give them liberty 
and latitude as regards religious convictions ; she would 
make no condition as to reading the Bible or studying 
Christianity ; but she designs to put within their reach 
in reading-books and on the shelves of the school 
library, side by side, the Bible and the Sacred books of the 
East, and for the rest, earnestly pray that God will 
guide them to His saving truth. 

It is roughly computed that Ramabai will need about 
fifteen thousand dollars to fully inaugurate the work 
of her first school and five thousand dollars annually 
afterwards during the ten years for which she asks help. 

So easy is it to plan, so difficult to execute ! Ram- 
abai herself offers a reasonable means by which the 
collection of this sum may be commenced, in the pre- 
sentation of this, her only American book to the public. 
It has been privately printed, in order that the entire 
profits may accrue to her ; in the hope of a possible 
large sale, the pages have been copyrighted and elec- 
trotyped. If, therefore, every American woman who, 

xxiv Introduction. 

at any time during the last twelvemonth, has taken 
Ramabai by the hand, every college student who has 
heard the Pundita speak in college halls, every reader 
of this book whose heart has been stirred to compas- 
sion by the perusal of its sorrowful pages, will at once 
purchase a copy of the book and induce a friend to do 
the same, each reader being responsible for the sale of 
one copy, the work is done, and the large fund needed 
to prepay three passages to India, to purchase the illus- 
trative material for the school-rooms, to illustrate and 
print the school-books, and secure the needed school- 
property in India, is at once assured. 

Ramabai has come into my library to bid me fare- 
well, previous to her setting out on a journey of a 
few days. I asked her as she arose to depart, if she 
had a last message for the readers of her book. ' ' Re- 
mind them," she replied, with animated counten- 
ance and rapid speech, as she clasped my hand "that 
it was ' out of Nazareth ' that the blessed Redeemer of 
mankind came ; that great reforms have again and 
again been wrought by instrumentalities that the world 
despised. Tell them to help me educate the high-caste 
child-widows ; for I solemnly believe that this hated 
and despised class of women, educated and enlight- 
ened, are, by God's grace, to redeem India !" 

R. L. B. 

June ist, 1887. 












IN order to understand the life of a Hin- 
du woman, it is necessary for the foreign 
reader to know something of the religion and 
the social customs of the Hindu nation. The 
population of Hindustan numbers two hund- 
red and fifty millions, and is made up of Hin- 
dus, Mahometans, Eurasians, Europeans and 
Jews ; more than three-fifths of this vast popu- 
lation are professors of the so-called Hindu 
religion in one or the other of ks forms. 
Among these the religious customs and orders 
are essentially the same ; the social customs 
differ slightly in various parts of the country, 

2 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

but they have an unmistakable similarity un- 
derlying them. 

The religion of the Hindus is too vast a 
subject to be fully treated in a few para- 
graphs ; it may be briefly stated, however, some- 
what thus : All Hindus recognize the Vedas 
and other apocryphal books as the canonical 
scriptures. They believe in one supreme spirit, 
Paramatma, which is pure, passionless, omni- 
present, holy and formless in its essence, but 
when it is influenced by Maya, or illusion, it 
assumes form, becomes male and female, creates 
every thing in the universe out of its own 
substance. A Hindu, therefore, does not think 
it a sin to worship rivers, mountains, heavenly 
bodies, creatures, etc., since they are all con- 
substantial with God and manifestations of the 
same spirit. Any one of these manifestations 
may be selected to be the object of devotion, 
according" to a man's own choice ; his favorite 
divinity he will call the supreme ruler of the 
universe, and the others gods, servants of the 
supreme ruler. 

Prefatory Remarks. 3 

Hindus believe in the immortality of the 
soul, inasmuch as it is consubstantial with 
God ; man is rewarded or punished according 
to his deeds. He undergoes existences of dif- 
ferent descriptions in order to reap the fruit 
of his deeds. When at length he is free from 
the consequences of his action, which he can 
be by knowing the Great Spirit as it is and 
its relation to himself, he is then re-absorbed 
into the spirit and ceases to be an individual ; 
just as a river ceases to be different from the 
ocean when it flows into the sea. 

According to this doctrine, a man is liable 
to be born eight million four hundred thous- 
and times before he can become a Brahman 
(first caste), and except one be a Brahman he 
is not fit to be re-absorbed into the spirit, even 
though he obtain the true knowledge of the 
Paramatma. It is, therefore, necessary for every 
person of other castes to be careful not to 
transgress the law by any imprudent act, lest 
he be again subjected to be born eight million 
four hundred thousand times. A Brahman 

4 The High-Caste Hindu Woman. 

must incessantly try to attain to the perfec- 
tion of the supreme knowledge, for it is his 
last chance to get rid of the misery of the 
long series of earthly existences ; the least 
trifling transgression of social or religious rules 
however renders him liable to the degradation 
of perpetual births and deaths. 

These, with the caste beliefs, are the chief 
articles of the Hindu creed at the present 
day. There are a few heterodox Hindus who 
deny all this ; they are pure theists in their 
belief, and disregard all idolatrous customs. 
These Bramos, as they are called, are doing 
much good by purifying the national religion. 

As regards social customs, it may be said 
that the daily life and habits of the people 
are immensely influenced by religion in India. 
There is not an act that is not performed 
religiously by them ; a humorous author has 
said, with some truth, that u the Hindus even 
sin religiously." The rising from the bed in 
the morning, the cleaning of teeth, washing 
of hands and bathing of the body, the wear- 

Prefatory Remarks. 5 

ing of garments, lighting the fire or the lamp, 
eating and drinking and every act of similar 
description, is done in a prescribed manner, 
and with the utterance of prayers or in pro- 
found silence. Bach custom, when it is old 
enough to be entitled "the way of the an- 
cients," takes the form of religion and is 
scrupulously observed. These customs, founded 
for the most part on tradition, are altogether 
independent of the canonical writings, so much 
so that a person is liable to be punished, or 
even excommunicated, for doing a deed for- 
bidden by custom, even though it be sanc- 
tioned by religion. 

For example, eating the food prepared by 
persons of an inferior caste is not only not 
forbidden by the sacred laws, but is sanctioned 
by them.* 

At the present day, however, time-honored 

* " Pure men of the first three castes shall prepare the 
food of a householder" (Brahman or other high caste). 

" Or Shudras (servile caste) may prepare the food under 
the superintendence of men of the first three castes." 
Apastamba II. 2, 3. i. 4. 

6 The High-Caste Hindu Woman. 

custom overrules the ancient laws, and says 
that a person must not eat anything cooked 
nor drink water polluted by the touch of a 
person of inferior caste. Hindus transgressing 
this rule instantly forfeit their caste, and must 
undergo some heavy penance to regain it. 

Without doubt, u caste" originated in the 
economical division of labor. The talented and 
most intelligent portion of the Aryan Hindus 
became, as was natural, the governing body 
of the entire race. They, in their wisdom, 
saw the necessity of dividing society, and sub- 
sequently set each portion apart to undertake 
certain duties which might promote the wel- 
fare of the nation. The priesthood (Brahman 
caste) were appointed to be the spiritual gov- 
ernors over all, and were the recognized head 
of society. The vigorous, warlike portion of 
the people (Kshatriya, or warrior caste) was 
to defend the country, and suppress crime and 
injustice by means of physical strength ; as- 
sisted by the priesthood, they were to be the 
temporal governors in the administration of 

Prefatory Remarks. 7 

justice. The business-loving tradesmen and 
artisans (Vaisya, or trader caste) had also an 
important position assigned under the pre- 
ceding classes or castes. The fourth, or servile 
class (Shudra caste) was made up of all those 
not included in the preceding three castes. In 
ancient times persons were assigned to each 
of the four castes according to their individual 
capacity and merit, independent of the acci- 
dent of birth. 

Later on, when caste became an article of 
the Hindu faith, it assumed the formidable pro- 
portions which now prevail everywhere in In- 
dia. A son of a Brahman is honored as the 
head of all castes, not because of his merit, 
but because he was born into a Brahman 
family. Intermarriage of castes was once re- 
cognized as lawful, even after caste by inheri- 
tance had been acknowledged, provided that 
a woman of superior caste did not marry a 
man of an inferior caste ; but now law 
is overruled by custom. Intermarriages can- 
not take place without involving serious 

8 The High-Caste Hindu Woman. 

consequences, and making the offenders out- 

The four principal castes* are again divided 
into clans ; men belonging to high clans must 
not give their daughters in marriage to men of 
low clans. To transgress this custom is to 
lose family honor, caste privileges, and even 
intercourse with friends and relatives. 

Besides the four castes and their clans there 
are numerous castes called collectively, "mixed 
castes" formed by the intermarriage of mem- 
bers of the preceding ; their number is again 
increased by castes according to employment, 
as scribe, tanner, cobbler, shoemaker, tailor, 
etc., etc. Even the outcasts, such for exam- 
ple as the sweeper, have their own distinc- 
tions, as powerful among themselves as are 

* "There are four castes Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vais- 
yas, and Shudras." 

"Amongst these, each preceding caste is superior by 
birth to the one following." Apastamba I. i, i, 3, 4. 

"The Brahmana, the Kshatriya and the Vaisya castes 
are the twice-born ones, but the fourth, the Shudra, has 
one birth only; there is no fifth caste." Manu X. 4. 

Prefatory Remarks. 9 

those of the high castes. Transgressors of 
caste rules are, from the highest to the low- 
est, subject to excommunication and severe 
punishment. Offenders by intermarriage, or 
change of faith, are without redemption. It 
must also be borne in mind, that if a Brah- 
man condescends to marry a person of lower 
caste, or eats and drinks with any of them, he 
is despised and shunned as an outcast, not 
only by his own caste, but also by the low- 
caste with whose members he has entered into 
such relation. The low-caste people will look 
upon this Brahman as a lawless wretch. So 
deeply rooted is this custom in the heart 
of every orthodox Hindu that he is not in 
any way offended by the disrespect shown 
him by a high caste man, since he recognizes 
in it only what is ordered by religion. For, 
although "caste" is confessedly an outgrowth 
of social order, it has now become the first 
great article of the Hindu creed all over India. 
Thoughtful men like Buddha, Nanak, Chai- 
tanya and others rebelled against this tyran- 

io The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

nical custom, and proclaimed the gospel of 
social equality of all men, but "caste" proved 
too strong for them. Their disciples at the 
present day are as much subject to caste as 
are any other orthodox Hindus. Even the 
Mahomedans have not escaped this tyrant ; 
they, too, are divided into several castes, and 
are as strict as the Hindus in their observ- 
ances. Over a million Hindu converts to 
Christianity, members of the Roman Catholic 
Church, are more or less ruled by caste. The 
Protestant missionaries, likewise, found it diffi- 
cult in early days to overcome caste prejudice 
among their converts, and not many years 
ago, in the Madras presidency, clergymen were 
compelled to use different cups for each sepa- 
rate caste when they celebrated the Lord's 

The Vedas are believed by the devout Hin- 
du to be the eternal, self-existing Word of 
God, revealed by Him to different sages. Be- 
sides the Vedas there are more than twenty- 
five books of sacred law, ascribed to different 

Prefatory Remarks. 1 1 

inspired authors who wrote or compiled them 
at various times, and on which are based the 
principal customs and religious institutes of 
the Hindus. Among these, the code of Manu 
ranks highest, and is believed by all to be 
very sacred, second to none but the Vedas 

Although Manu and the other law-givers 
differ greatly on many points, they all agree on 
things concerning women. According to this 
sacred law a woman's life is divided into three 
parts, viz : ist, Childhood ; 2nd, Youth or 
married life ; 3rd, Widowhood or old age. 

NOTE. The translations of the sacred texts quoted 
throughout this work are those found in the well-known 
"Sacred Books of the East," edited by Prof. Max Muller, 
Clarendon Press, Oxford. 

12 The HigJi- Caste Hindu Woman. 


ALTHOUGH the code of Maim contains a sin- 
gle passage in which it is written ' ' A daugh- 
ter is equal to a son," (See Manu ix., 130), 
the context expressly declares that equality to 
be founded upon the results attainable through 
her son ; the passage therefore cannot be re- 
garded as an exception to the statement that 
the ancient code establishes the superiority of 
male children. A son is the most coveted of 
all blessings that a Hindu craves, for it is by 
a son's birth in the family that the father is 

"Through a son he conquers the worlds, through a 

Childhood. 1 3 

son's son he obtains immortality, but through his son's 
grandson he gains the world of the sun." Manu, ix., 137. 
"There is no place for a man (in Heaven) who is desti- 
tute of male offspring." Vasishtha, xvii. 2. 

If a man is sonless, it is desirable that he 
should have a daughter, for her son stands in 
the place of a son to his grandfather, through 
whom the grandfather may obtain salvation. 

"Between a son's son and the son of a daughter there 
exists in this world no difference ; for even the son of a 
daughter saves him who has no sons, in the next world, 
like the son's son." Manu, ix. 139. 

In Western and Southern India when a girl 
or a woman salutes the elders and priests, 
they bless her with these words " Mayst thou 
have eight sons, and may thy husband survive 
thee." In the form of a blessing the deity is 
never invoked to grant daughters. Fathers 
very seldom wish to have daughters, for they 
are thought to be the property of somebody 
else ; besides, a daughter is not supposed to 
be of any use to the parents in their old age. 
Although it is necessary for the continuance of 

14 The High-Caste Hindu Woman. 

the race that some girls should be born into 
the world, it is desirable that their number 
by no means should exceed that of the boys. 
If unfortunately a wife happens to have all 
daughters and no son, Manu authorizes the 
husband of such a woman to supersede her 
with another in the eleventh year of their 
marriage. * 

In no other country is the mother so laden 
with care and anxiety on the approach of 
childbirth as in India. In most cases her hope 
of winning her husband to herself hangs solely 
on her bearing sons. 

Women of the poorest as well as of the 
richest families, are almost invariably sub- 
jected to this trial. Many are the sad and 
heart-rending stories heard from the lips of 
unhappy women who have lost their husband's 
favor by bringing forth daughters only, or by 
having no children at all. Never shall I for- 
get a sorrowful scene that I witnessed in my 
childhood. When about thirteen years of age 

* See page 61. 

Childhood. 1 5 

I accompanied my mother and sister to a royal 
harem where they had been invited to pay a 
visit. The Prince had four wives, three of 
whom were childless. The eldest having been 
blessed with two sons, was of course the favor- 
ite of her husband, and her face beamed w r ith 

We were shown into the nursery and the 
royal bed-chamber, where signs of peace and 
contentment were conspicuous. But oh ! what 
a contrast to this brightness was presented in 
the apartments of the childless three. Their 
faces were sad and careworn ; there seemed no 
hope for them in this world, since their lord 
was displeased with them, on account of their 

A lady friend of mine in Calcutta told me 
that her husband had warned her not to give 
birth to a girl, the first time, or he would never 
see her face again, but happily for this wife 
and for her husband also, she had two sons 
before the daughter came. In the same family 
there was another woman, the sister-in-law of 

1 6 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

my friend, whose first-born had been a daugh- 
ter. She longed unceasingly to have a son, 
in order to win her husband's favor, and when 
I we-nt to the house, constantly besought me 
to foretell whether this time she should have a 
son ! Poor woman ! she had been notified by 
her husband that if she persisted in bearing 
daughters she should be superseded by another 
wife, have coarse clothes to wear and scanty 
food to eat, should have no ornaments, save 
those which are necessary to show the exis- 
tence of a husband, and she should be made 
the drudge of the whole household. Not un- 
frequently, it is asserted, that bad luck attends 
a girl's advent, and poor superstitious mothers 
in order to avert such a catastrophe, attempt 
to convert the unborn child into a boy, if un- 
happily it be a girl. 

Rosaries used by mothers of sons are pro- 
cured to pray with ; herbs and roots celebrated 
for their virtue are eagerly and regularly swal- 
lowed ; trees and son-giving gods are devoutly 
worshipped. There is a curious ceremony, hon- 

Childhood. 1 7 

ored with the name of "sacrament," which is 
administered to the mother between the third 
and the fourth month of her pregnancy for 
the purpose of converting the embryo into a 

In spite of all these precautions girls will 
come into Hindu households as ill-luck, or 
rather nature, will have it. After the birth of 
one or more sons girls are not unwelcome, 
and under such circumstances, mothers very 
often long to have a daughter. And after 
her birth both parents lavish love and ten- 
derness upon her, for natural affection, though 
modified and blunted by cruel custom, is still 
strong in the parent's heart. Especially may 
this be the case with the Hindu mother. That 
maternal affection, sweet and strong, before 
which ' ' there is neither male nor female, ' ' 
asserts itself not unfrequently in Hindu homes, 
and overcomes selfishness and false fear of 
popular custom. A loving mother will sacri- 
fice her own happiness by braving the dis- 
pleasure of her lord, and will treat her little 

i8 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

daughter as the best of all treasures. Such 
heroism is truly praiseworthy in a woman ; 
any country might be proud of her. But alas ! 
the dark side is too conspicuous to be passed 
over in silence. 

In a home shadowed by adherence to cruel 
custom and prejudice, a child is born into the 
world ; the poor mother is greatly distressed 
to learn that the little stranger is a daughter, 
and the neighbors turn their noses in all di- 
rections to manifest their disgust and indigna- 
tion at the occurrence of such a phenomenon. 
The innocent babe is happily unconscious of 
all that is going on around her, for a time at 
least. The mother, who has lost the favor of 
her husband and relatives because of the girl's 
birth, may selfishly avenge herself by show- 
ing disregard to infantile needs and slighting 
babyish requests. Under such a mother the 
baby soon begins to feel her misery, although 
she does not understand how or why she is 
caused to suffer this cruel injustice. 

If a girl is born after her brother's death, 

Childhood. 1 9 

or if, soon after her birth, a boy in the 
family dies, she is in either case regarded by 
her parents and neighbors as the cause of the 
boy's death. She is then constantly addressed 
with some unpleasant name, slighted, beaten, 
cursed, persecuted and despised by all. Strange 
to say, some parents, instead of thinking of 
her as a comfort left to them, find it in their 
hearts, in the constant manifestation of their 
grief for the dear lost boy, to address the inno- 
cent girl with words such as these: "Wretched 
girl, why didst thou not die instead of our 
darling boy? Why didst thou crowd him out 
of the house by coming to us ; or why didst 
not thou thyself become a boy?" "It would 
have been good for all of us if thou hadst 
died and thy brother lived !" I have myself 
several times heard parents say such things to 
their daughters, who, in their turn, looked 
sadly and wonderingly into the parents' faces, 
not comprehending why such cruel speeches 
should be heaped upon their heads when they 
had not done any harm to their brothers. 

2O The High-Caste Hindu Woman. 

If there is a boy remaining in the family, all 
the caresses and sweet words, the comforts and 
gifts, the blessings and praises are lavished 
upon him by parents and neighbors, and even 
by servants, who fully sympathize with the 
parents in their grief. On every occasion the 
poor girl is made to feel that she has no right 
to share her brother's good fortune, and that 
she is an unwelcome, unbidden guest in the 

Brothers, in most cases, are, of course, very 
proud of their superior sex ; they can know no 
better than what they see and hear concerning 
their own and their sisters' qualities. They, 
too, begin by and by to despise girls and 
women. It is not a rare thing to hear a mere 
slip of a boy gravely lecture his elder sister as 
to what she should or should not do, and 
remind her that she is only a girl and that he 
is a boy. Subjected to such humiliation, most 
girls become sullen, morbid and dull. There 
are some fiery natures, however, who burn 
with indignation, and burst out in their own 

Childhood. 2 1 

childish eloquence ; they tell their brothers 
and cousins that they soon are going to be 
given in marriage, and that they will not 
come to see them, even if they are often 
entreated to do so. Children, however, soon 
forget the wrong done them ; they laugh, they 
shout, they run about freely, and are gener- 
ally merry when unpleasant speeches are not 
showered upon them. Having little or no 
education, except a few prayers and popular 
songs to commit to memory, the little girls 
are mostly left to themselves, and they play 
in whatever manner they please. When about 
six or seven years of age they usually begin 
to help their mothers in household work, or 
in taking care of the younger children. 

I have mentioned earlier the strictness of 
the modern caste system in regard to mar- 
riage. Intelligent readers may, therefore, have 
already guessed that this reason lies at the 
bottom of the disfavor shown to girls in Hindu 
homes. From the first moment of the daugh- 


ter's birth, the parents are tormented inces- 

22 The High-Caste Hindu Woman. 

santly with anxiety in regard to her future, 
and the responsibilities of their position. Mar- 
riage is the most expensive of all Hindu fes- 
tivities and ceremonies. The marriage of a 
girl of a high caste family involves an expen- 
diture of two hundred dollars at the very least. 
Poverty in India is so great that not many 
fathers are able to incur this expense ; if there 
are more than two daughters in a family, his 
ruin is inevitable. For, it should be remem- 
bered, the bread-winner of the house in Hindu 
society not only has to feed his own wife and 
children, but also his parents, his brothers 
unable to work either through ignorance or 
idleness, their families and the nearest widowed 
relatives, all of whom very often depend upon 
one man for their support ; besides these, there 
are the family priests, religious beggars and 
others, who expect much from him. Thus, 
fettered hand and foot by barbarously cruel 
customs which threaten to strip him of every- 
thing he has, starvation and death staring him 
in the face, the wretched father of many girls 

Childhood. 23 

is truly an object of pity. Religion enjoins 
that every girl must be given in marriage ; 
the neglect of this duty means for the father 
unpardonable sin, public ridicule and caste ex- 
communication. But this is not all. The girl 
must be married within a fixed period, the 
caste of the future husband must be the same, 
and the clan either equal or superior, but never 
inferior, to that of her father. 

The Brahmans of Eastern India have ob- 
served successfully their clan prejudice for 
hundreds of years despite poverty ; they have 
done this in part by taking advantage of 
the custom of polygamy. A Brahman of a 
high clan will marry ten, eleven, twenty, or 
even one hundred and fifty girls. He makes 
a business of it. He goes up and down the 
land marrying girls, receiving presents from 
their parents, and immediately thereafter bid- 
ding good-bye to the brides ; going home, 
he never returns to them. The illustrious 
Brahman need not bother himself with the 
care of supporting so many wives, for the 

24 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

parents pledge themselves to maintain the 
daughter all her life, if she stays with them a 
married virgin to the end. In case of such a 
marriage as this, the father is not required to 
spend money beyond his means, nor is it diffi- 
cult for him to support the daughter, for she 
is useful to the family in doing the cooking and 
other household work ; moreover, the father 
has the satisfaction first, of having given his 
daughter in marriage, and thereby having 
escaped disgrace and the ridicule of society ; 
secondly, of having obtained for himself the 
bright mansions of the gods, since his daugh- 
ter's husband is a Brahman of high clan. 

But this form of polygamy does not exist 
among the Kshatriyas, because, as a member 
of the non-Brahman caste, a man is not al- 
lowed by religion, to beg or to receive gifts 
from others, except from friends ; he therefore 
cannot support either many wives or many 
daughters. Caste and clan prejudice tyran- 
nized the Rajputs of North and Northwestern 
and Central India, who belong to the Ksha- 

Childhood. 25 

triyas or warrior caste, to such an extent that 
they were driven to introduce the inhuman 
and irreligious custom of female infanticide 
into their society. This cruel act was per- 
formed by the fathers themselves, or even 
by mothers, at the command of the husband 
whom they are bound to obey in all things. 

It is a universal custom among the Rajputs 
for neighbors and friends to assemble to con- 
gratulate the father upon the birth of a child. 
If a boy is born, his birth is announced 
with music, glad songs and by distributing 
sweetmeats. If a daughter, the father coolly 
announces that ' ' nothing ' ' has been born into 
his family, by which expression it is under- 
stood that the child is a girl, and that she is 
very likely to be nothing in this world, and 
the friends go home grave and quiet. 

After considering how many girls could safe- 
ly be allowed to live, the father took good 
care to defend himself from caste and clan 
tyranny by killing the extra girls at birth, 
which was as easily accomplished as destroying 

26 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

a mosquito or other annoying insect. Who 
can save a babe if the parents are determined 
to slay her, and eagerly watch for a suitable 
opportunity? Opium is generally used to keep 
the crying child quiet, and a small pill of this 
drug is sufficient to accomplish the cruel task ; 
a skillful pressure upon the neck, which is 
known as the "putting nail to the throat," 
also answers the purpose. There are several 
other nameless methods that may be employed 
in sacrificing the innocents upon the unholy 
altar of the caste and clan system. Then 
there are not a few child-thieves who gene- 
rally steal girls ; even the wild animals are so 
intelligent and of such refined taste that they 
mock at British law, and almost always steal 
girls to satisfy their hunger. 

Female infanticide, though not sanctioned 
by religion, and never looked upon as right 
by conscientious people, has, nevertheless, in 
those parts of India mentioned, been silently 
passed over unpunished by society in general. 

As early as 1802 the British government 

Childhood. 27 

enacted laws for the suppression of this horrid 
crime ; and more than forty years ago Major 
Ludlow, a kind-hearted Englishman, induced 
the semi-independent States to prohibit this 
custom, which the Hindu princes did, by a 
mutual agreement not to allow any one to 
force the father of a girl to give more dowry 
than his circumstances should warrant, and to 
discourage extravagance in the celebration of 
marriages. But caste and clan prejudice could 
not be overcome so easily. 

Large expenses might be stopped by law, 
but a belief, deeply rooted in the hearts and 
religiously observed by the people for centu- 
ries, could not be removed by external rules. 

The Census of 1870 revealed the curious fact 
that three hundred children were stolen in one 
year by wolves from within the city of Umrit- 
zar, all the children being girls, and this un- 
der the very nose of the English government. 
In the year 1868 an English official, Mr. Ho- 
bart, made a tour of inspection through those 
parts of India where female infanticide was most 

28 The High-Caste Hindu Woman. 

practiced before the government enacted the 
prohibitory law. As a result of careful observa- 
tion, he came to the conclusion that this horri- 
ble practice was still followed in secret, and to 
an alarming extent. 

The Census returns of 1 880-81 show that 
there are fewer women than men in India by 
over five millions. Chief among the causes 
which have brought about this surprising nume- 
rical difference of the sexes may be named, after 
female infanticide in certain parts of the coun- 
try, the imperfect treatment of the diseases of 
women in all parts of Hindustan^ together 
with lack of proper hygienic care and medical 

Married Life. 29 


IT is not easy to determine when the child- 
hood of a Hindu girl ends and the married life 
begins. The early marriage system, although 
not the oldest custom of my country, is at least 
five hundred years older than the Christian era. 
According to Manu, eight years is the mini- 
mum, and twelve years of age the maximum 
marriageable age for a high caste girl.* The 
earlier the act of giving the daughter in mar- 
riage, the greater is the merit, for thereby the 
parents are entitled to rich rewards in heaven. 

*A man aged thirty years shall marry a maiden of 
twelve who pleases him, or a man of twenty-four a girl 
of eight years of age. Manu ix., 94. 

30 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

There have always been exceptions to this rule, 
however. Among the eight kinds of marriages 
described in the law, there is one form that is 
only an agreement between the lovers to be loyal 
to each other ; in this form of marriage there is 
no religious ceremony, nor even a third party 
to witness and confirm the agreement and rela- 
tionship, and yet by the law this is regarded 
as completely lawful a marriage as any other. 
It is quite plain from this fact that all girls were 
not betrothed between the age of eight and 
twelve years, and also that marriage was not 
considered a religious institution by the Hindus 
in olden times. All castes and classes could 
marry in this form if they chose to do so. One 
of the most noticeable facts connected with this 
form is this : women as well as men were quite 
free to choose their own future spouses. In 
Europe and America women do choose their 
husbands, but it is considered a shame for 
a woman to be the first to request marriage, and 
both men and women will be shocked equally 
at such an occurrence ; but in India, women 

Married Life. 31 

had equal freedom with men, in this case at 
least. A woman might, without being put to 
shame, and without shocking the other party, 
come forward and select her own husband. 
The Svayamvara (selecting husband) was quite 
common until as late as the eleventh century, 
A. D., and even now, although very rarely, this 
custom is practiced by a few people. 

I know of a woman in the Bombay presidency 
who is married to a Brahman according to this 
form. The first wife of the man is still living ; 
the second wife, being of another caste, he 
could not openly acknowledge as his reli- 
giously wedded wife, but he could do so with- 
out going through the religious ceremony had 
she been of his own caste, as the act is sanc- 
tioned by Hindu law. The lawless beha- 
viour of the Mahomedan intruders from the 
twelfth century, A. D., had much to do in uni- 
versalizing infant marriage in India. A great 
many girls are given in marriage at the present 
day literally while they are still in their cradles ; 
from five to eleven years is the usual period 

32 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

for their marriage among the Brahmans all 
over India. As it is absurd to assume that 
girls should be allowed to choose their future 
husbands in their infancy, this is done for 
them by their parents and guardians. In the 
northern part of the country the family barber 
is generally employed to select boys and girls 
to be married, it being considered too humilia- 
ting and mean an act on the part of parents 
and guardians to go out to seek their future 
daughters and sons-in-law. 

Although Manu has distinctly said that 
twenty-four years is the minimum marriage- 
able age for a young man, the popular cus- 
tom defies the law. Boys of ten and twelve 
are now doomed to be married to girls of 
seven and eight years of age. A boy of a 
well-to-do family does not generally remain a 
bachelor after seventeen or eighteen years of 
age ; the respectable but very poor families, 
even if they are of high caste, cannot afford to 
marry their boys so soon, but even among them 
it is a shame for a man to remain unmarried 

Married Life. 33 

after twenty or twenty-five. Boys as well as 
girls have no voice in the selection of their 
spouses at the first marriage, but if a man 
lose his first wife, and marries a second time, he 
has a voice in the matter. 

Although the ancient law-givers thought it 
desirable to marry girls when quite young, and 
consequently ignored their right to choose their 
own husbands, yet they were not altogether 
void of humane feelings. They have positively 
forbidden parents and guardians to give away 
girls in marriage unless good suitors were of- 
fered them. 

"To a distinguished, handsome suitor of equal caste 
should a father give his daughter in accordance with the 
prescribed rule, though she have not attained the proper 
age." Manu ix., 88. 

" But the maiden, though marriageable, should rather 
stop in the father's house until death, than that he should 
ever give her to a man destitute of good qualities." 
, ix. 89. 

But, alas, here too the law is defied by cruel 
custom. It allows some men to remain un- 
married, but woe to the maiden and to her 

34 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

family if she is so unfortunate as to remain 
single after the marriageable age. Although 
no law has ever said so, the popular belief is 
that a woman can have no salvation unless 
she be formally married. It is not, then, a 
matter of wonder that parents become ex- 
tremely anxious when their daughters are over 
eight or nine and are unsought in marriage. 
Very few suitors offer to marry the daughters 
of poor parents, though they may be of high 
caste families. Wealth has its own pride and 
merit in India, as everywhere else in the 
world, but even this powerful wealth is as 
nothing before caste rule. A high caste man 
will never condescend to marry his daughter 
to a low caste man though he be a millionaire. 
But wealth in one's own caste surpasses the 
merits of learning, beauty and honor ; parents 
generally seek boys of well-to-do families for 
their sons-in-law. As the boys are too young 
to pass as possessing "good qualities," i. e., 
learning, common-sense, ability to support and 
take care of a family, and respectable char- 

Married Life. 35 

acter, the parents wish to see their daugh- 
ter safe in a family where she will, at least, 
have plenty to eat and to wear ; they, of 
course, wish her to be happy with her hus- 
band, but in their judgment that is not the 
one thing needful. So long as they have ful- 
filled the custom, and thereby secured a good 
name in this world and heavenly reward in 
the next, their minds are not much troubled 
concerning the girl's fate. If the boy be of 
rich or middle class people, a handsome sum 
of money must be given to him and his family 
in order to secure the marriage ; beside this, 
the girl's family must walk very humbly with 
this little god, for he is believed to be indwelt 
by the god Vishnu. Poor parents cannot have 
the advantage of marrying their daughters to 
boys of prosperous families, and as they must 
marry them to some one, it very frequently 
happens that girls of eight or nine are given 
to men of sixty and seventy, or to men utterly 
unworthy of the young maidens. 

Parents who have the means to secure good- 

36 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

looking, prosperous men for their sons-in-law, 
take great care to consult the horoscopes of 
both parties in order to know the future of 
their daughters ; in such cases, they are anx- 
ious to ascertain, over and above all things, 
that the girl shall not become a widow. If 
the daughter's horoscope reveals that her future 
husband is to survive her, the match is con- 
sidered very satisfactory ; but if it reveals the 
reverse, then a boy having a horoscope equally 
bad is sought for, because it is sincerely be- 
lieved that in that case the guardian planets 
will wrestle with each other, and, as almost 
always happens, that the stronger, i. e., the 
husband's planet will be victorious, or else 
both parties will fall in the conflict, and the 
husband and wife die together. A friend of 
mine informed me that three hundred horos- 
copes were rejected before one was found which 
agreed satisfactorily with her sister's guardian 
planet. Undoubtedly many suitors, who might 
make good husbands for these little girls, are 
for this reason rejected, and unworthy men fall 

Married Life. 37 

to their lot ; thus, the horoscope becomes a 
source of misery instead of blessing. 

It not unfrequently happens that fathers give 
away their daughters in marriage to strangers 
without exercising care in making inquiry 
concerning the suitor's character and social 
position. It is enough to learn from the man's 
own statement, his caste and clan, and the 
locality of his home. I know of a most extraor- 
dinary marriage that took place in the following 
manner : the father was on a religious pilgrim- 
age with his family, which consisted of his wife 
and two daughters, one nine and the other seven 
years of age, and they had stopped in a town to 
take rest for a day or two. One morning the 
father was bathing in the sacred river Godavari, 
near the town, when he saw a fine-looking man 
coming to bathe there also. After the ablution 
and the morning prayers were over, the father 
inquired of the stranger who he was and whence 
he came ; on learning his caste, and clan, and 
dwelling-place, also that he was a widower, the 
father offered him his little daughter of nine, in 

38 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

marriage. All things were settled in an hour or 
so ; next day the marriage was concluded, and 
the little girl placed in the possession of the 
stranger, who took her nearly nine hundred 
miles away from her home. The father left the 
place the day after the marriage without the 
daughter, and pursued his pilgrimage with a 
light heart ; fortunately the little girl had fallen 
in good hands, and was well and tenderly cared 
for beyond all expectation, but the conduct of 
her father, who cared so little to ascertain his 
daughter's fate, is none the less censurable. 

When the time to conclude the marriage cere- 
mony draws near, the Hindu mother's affection 
for the girl frequently knows no bounds ; she 
indulges her in endless ways, knowing that in 
a few days her darling will be torn away from 
her loving embrace. When she goes to pay the 
customary visit to her child's future mother-in- 
law many are the tearful entreaties and soul- 
stirring solicitations that she will be as kind and 
forbearing toward the little stranger as though 
she were her own daughter. The boy's mother 

Mar tied Life. 39 

is moved at this time, for she has a woman's 
heart, and she promises to be a mother to the 
little bride. On the day fixed for the marriage, 
parents formally give their daughter away to the 
boy ; afterwards the young people are united by 
priests who utter the sacred texts and pronounce 
them man and wife in the presence of the sacred 
fire and of relatives and friends. The mar- 
riage being thus concluded, it is henceforth in- 

"Neither by sale nor by repudiation is a wife released 
from her husband ; such we know the law to be which the 
Lord of creatures made of old." Manu ix., 46. 

Marriage is the only " Sacrament " adminis- 
tered to a high caste woman, accompanied with 
the utterance of the Vedic texts. It is to be 
presumed that the texts are introduced in honor 
of the man whom she marries, for no sacrament 
must be administered to him without the sa- 
cred formulae. Henceforth the girl is his, not 
only his property, but also that of his nearest 


40 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

" For they (the ancient sages) declare that a bride is 
given to the family of her husband, and not to the husband 
alone." Apastamba II., 10, 27, 3. 

The girl now belongs to the husband's clan ; 
she is known by his family name, and in some 
parts of India the husband's relatives will not 
allow her to be called by the first name that was 
given her by her parents ; henceforth she is a 
kind of impersonal being. She can have no 
merit or quality of her own. 

"Whatever be the qualities of the man with whom a 
woman is united in lawful marriage, such qualities even she 
assumes, like a united with the ocean." Manu ix., 22. 

Many of our girls when asked in fun whe- 
ther they would like soon to be married would 
innocently answer in the affirmative. They 
often see their sisters, cousins or playmates mar- 
ried ; the occasion is one long to be remembered 
with pleasure. Even the poorest families take 
great pains to make it pleasant to every- 
body ; children enjoy it most of all. There are 
gorgeous dresses, bright colored clothes, beau- 

Married Life. 41 

tiful decorations, music, songs, fireworks, fun, 
plenty of fruit and sweet things to eat and to 
give away, lovely flowers, and the whole house 
is illuminated with many lamps. What can be 
more tempting to a child's mind than these? 
In addition to all this the big elephant is some- 
times brought, on which the newly-married 
children ride in procession amidst all sorts 
of fun. Is it not grand enough for a child? 
Oh, I shall ride on the back of the elephant! 
thinks the girl ; and there is something more 
besides ; all the people in the house will wait on 
me, will make much of me ; everybody will 
caress and try to please me. "Oh, what fun !" 

"I like to have a cold, and be ill," said a 
girl of four. ' ' Why, darling ? ' ' asked her 
mother, in surprise. "Oh, because," replied 
the little girl, "I like to eat my breakfast 
in bed, and then, too, everybody waits on 

Who has not heard remarks such as these, 
and laughed heartily over them ? Children like 
even to be ill for the sake of being waited on. 

42 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

What wonder, then, if Hindu girls like being 
married for the sake of enjoying that much- 
coveted privilege ! But little do these poor 
innocents know what comes after the fun. 
Little do they imagine that they must bid 
farewell to home and mother, to noisy merri- 
ment, and laughter, and to the free life of 
pure enjoyment. Sometimes the child desires 
to be married when, through superstition, she 
is ill-treated at home by her nearest relatives, 
otherwise there can be no reason except the 
enjoyment of fun that excites the desire in 
the girl's heart, for when the marriage takes 
place she is just emerging from babyhood. 

Childhood is, indeed, the heyday of a Hindu 
woman's life. Free to go in and out where 
she pleases, never bothered by caste or other 
social restrictions, never worried by lesson- 
learning, sewing, mending or knitting, loved, 
petted and spoiled by parents, brothers and 
sisters, uncles and aunts, she is little differ- 
ent from a young colt whose days are spent 
in complete liberty. Then lo, all at once 

Married Life. 43 

the ban of marriage is pronounced and the 
yoke put on her neck forever ! 

Immediately after the marriage ceremony is 
concluded the boy takes his girl-bride home 
and delivers her over to his own mother, who 
becomes from that time until the girl grows 
old enough to be given to her husband, her sole 
mistress, and who wields over the daughter-in- 
law undisputed authority ! 

It must be borne in mind that both in 
Northern and Southern India, the term "mar- 
riage" does not mean anything more than 
an irrevocable betrothal. The ceremony gone 
through at that time establishes religiously the 
conjugal relationship of both parties ; there is 
a second ceremony that confirms the relation- 
ship both religiously and socially, which does 
not take place until the children attain the age 
of puberty. In Bengal the rule is somewhat 
different, and proves in many cases greatly in- 
jurious to the human system. In some very 
rare cases the girls are allowed to remain with 
their own parents for a time at least. In the 

44 The High-Caste Hindu Woman. 

North of- India the little bride's lot is a hap- 
pier one to begin with ; she not being forced 
to go to her husband's home until she is 
about thirteen or fourteen years of age. 

The joint family system, which is one of the 
peculiarities of Eastern countries, is very deeply 
rooted in the soil of India. There may not 
unfrequently be found four generations living 
under one roof. The house is divided into two 
distinct parts, namely, the outer and the inner 
court. The houses, as a rule, have but few 
windows, and they are usually dark ; the 
men's court is comparatively light and good. 
Houses in country places are better than those 
in the crowded cities. Men and women have 
almost nothing in common. 

The women's court is situated at the back of 
the house, where darkness reigns perpetually. 
There the child-bride is brought to be forever 
confined.- She does not enter her husband's 
house to be the head of a new home, but rather 
enters the house of the father-in-law to become 
the lowest of its members, and to occupy the 

Married Life. 45 

humblest position in the family. Breaking the 
young bride's spirits is an essential part of the 
discipline of this new abode. She must never 
talk or laugh loudly, must never speak before 
or to the father and elder brother-in-law, or 
any other distant male relatives of her hus- 
band, unless commanded to do so. In Northern 
India, where all women wear veils, the young 
bride or woman covers her face with it, or 
runs into another room to show respect to 
them, when these persons enter an apartment 
where she happens to be. In Southern India, 
where women, as a rule, do not wear veils, 
they need not cover their faces ; they rise to 
show respect to elders and to their husbands, 
and remain standing as long as they are 
obliged to be in their presence. 

The mothers-in-law employ their daughters 
in all kinds of household work, in order to 
give them a thorough knowledge of domestic 
duties. These children of nine or ten years 
of age find it irksome to work hard all day 
long without the hope of hearing a word of 

46 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

praise from the mother-in-law. As a rule, the 
little girl is scolded for every mistake she 
commits ; if the work be well done, it is 
silently accepted, words of encouragement and 
praise from the elders being regarded as spoil- 
ing children and demoralizing them ; the faults 
of the little ones are often mistaken for inten- 
tional offences, and then the artillery of abu- 
sive speech is opened upon them ; thus, mor- 
tified and distressed, they seek to console 
themselves by shedding bitter tears in silence. 
In such sorrowful hours they miss the dear 
mother and her loving sympathy. 

I must, however, do justice to the mothers- 
in-law. Many of them treat the young brides 
of their sons as their own children ; many are 
kind and affectionate, but ignorant; they easily 
lose their temper and seem to be hard when 
they do not mean to be so. Others again, 
having themselves been the victims of merci- 
less treatment in their childhood become hard- 
hearted ; such an one will do all she can to 
torment the child by using abusive language, 

Married Life. 47 

by beating her and slandering her before the 
neighbors. Often she is not satisfied by doing 
this herself, but induces and encourages the 
son to join her. I have several times seen 
young wives shamefully beaten by beastly young 
husbands who cherished no natural love for 

As we have seen, the marriage is con- 
cluded without the consent of either party, 
and after it the bride is not allowed to speak 
or be acquainted with the husband until after 
the second ceremony, and even then the young 
couple must never betray any sign of their 
mutual attachment before a third party. Un- 
der such circumstances they seldom meet and 
talk ; it may therefore be easily understood 
that being cut off from the chief means of 
forming attachment, the young couple are al- 
most strangers, and in many cases do not like 
their relationship ; and if in the midst of all 
this, the mother-in-law begins to encourage the 
young man to torment his wife in various 
ways, it is not strange that a feeling akin to 

48 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

hatred takes root between them. A child of 
thirteen was cruelly beaten by her husband 
in m^ presence for telling the simple truth, 
that she did not like so well to be in his 
house as at her own home. 

In spite, however, of all these drawbacks, 
there is in India many a happy and loving- 
couple that would be an honor to any nation. 
Where the conjugal relation is brightened by 
mutual love, the happy wife has nothing to 
complain of except the absence of freedom 
of thought and action ; but since wives have 
never known from the beginning what freedom 
is, they are generally well content to remain 
in bondage ; there is, however, no such thing 
as the family having pleasant times together. 

Men spend their evenings and other leisure 
hours with friends of their own sex, either in 
the outer court or away from home. Children 
enjoy the company of father and mother alter- 
nately, by going in and out when they choose, 
but the children of young parents are never 
made happy by the father's caresses or any 

Married Life. 49 

other demonstration of his love in the pre- 
sence of the elders ; the notion of false mod- 
desty prevents the young father from speaking 
to his children freely. The women of the 
family usually take their meals after the men 
have had theirs, and the wife, as a rule, eats 
what her lord may please to leave on his plate. 

50 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 


THE Hindu religion commands ; 

" Women must be honored and adorned by their fathers, 
brothers, husbands, and brothers-in-law, who desire their 
own welfare." 

" Where women are honored, there the gods are pleased ; 
but where they are not honored, no sacred rite yields 

"Where the female relations live in grief, the family 
soon wholly perishes ; but that family where they are 
not unhappy ever prospers." 

" The houses on which female relations, not being duly 
honored, pronounce a curse, perish completely, as if de- 
stroyed by magic." 

" Hence men who seek their own welfare, should al- 
ways honor women on holidays and festivals with (gifts 
of) ornaments, clothes and dainty food." 

" In that family where the husband is pleased with his 

In Religion and Society. 5 1 

wife, and the wife with her husband, happiness will 
assuredly be lasting." 

" For if the wife is not radiant with beauty, she will 
not attract her husband ; but if she has no attractions 
for him, no children will be born." 

"If the wife is radiant with beauty, the whole house 
is bright ; but if she is destitute of beauty, all will appear 
dismal." Manu, iii., 55-62. 

These commandments are very significant. 
Our Aryan Hindus did, and still do honor 
woman to a certain extent. The honor be- 
stowed upon the mother is without parallel 
in any other country. Although the woman 
is looked upon as an inferior being, the 
mother is nevertheless the chief person and 
worthy to receive all honor from the son. 
One of the great commandments of the Hindu 
Scriptures is, ' ' Let thy mother be to thee 
like unto a god."* 

* My readers would perhaps be interested to see these 
commandments ; they are as follows: "After having 
taught the Veda, the teacher instructs the pupil : 

Say what is true. 

Do thy duty. 

Do not neglect the study of the Veda. 

52 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

The mother is the queen of the son's house- 
hold. She wields great power there, and is 
generally obeyed as the head of the family 
by her sons and by her daughters-in-law. 

But there is a reverse side to the shield that 
should not be left unobserved. This is best 
studied in the laws of Manu, as all Hindus, 
with a few exceptions believe implicitly what 
that law-giver says about women : 

After having brought to thy teacher his proper reward, 
do not cut off the line of children ! (*'. e. Do not remain 

Do not swerve from the truth. 

Do not swerve from duty. 

Do not neglect what is useful. 

Do not neglect the learning and teaching of the Veda. 

Do not neglect the sacrificial works due to the gods 
and fathers. 

Let thy mother be to thee like unto a god. 

Let thy father be to thee like unto a god. 

Let thy teacher be to thee like unto a god. 

Let thy guests be to thee like unto a god. 

Whatever actions are blameless those should be re- 
garded, not others. 

Whatever good works have been performed by us 
should be observed by thee, not others." Taittiriya 
Upanishad, Valli, i. An. xi., i, 2. 

In Religion and Society. 53 

"It is the nature of women to seduce men in this 
world ; for that reason the wise are never unguarded in 
the company of females." 

" For women are able to lead astray in this world not 
only a fool, but even a learned man, and to make him a 
slave of desire and anger." Manu, ii., 213-214. 

" Women do not care for beauty, nor is their attention 
fixed on age ; thinking ' it is enough that he is a man , ' 
they give themselves to the handsome and to the ugly." 

"Through their passion for men, through their mutable 
temper, through their natural heartlessness, they become 
disloyal towards their husbands, however carefully they 
may be guarded in this world." 

"Knowing their disposition, which the Lord of crea- 
tures laid in them at the creation, to be such, every man 
should most strenuously exert himself to guard them." 

"When creating them, Manu allotted to women a love 
of their bed, of their seat and of ornament, impure de- 
sires, wrath, dishonesty, malice and bad conduct." 

" For women no sacramental rite is performed with 
sacred texts, thus the law is settled ; women who are 
destitute of strength and destitute of the knowledge of 
Vedic texts, are as impure as falsehood itself, that is a 
fixed rule." Manu ix., 14-18. 

Such is the opinion of Manu concerning all 
women ; and all men with more or less faith 
in the law regard women, even though they 
be their own mothers, "as impure as false- 
hood itself." 

54 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

"And to this effect many sacred texts are chanted also 
in the Vedas, in order to make fully known the true dis- 
position of women ; hear now those texts which refer to 
the expiation of their sins." 

" ' If my mother, going astray and unfaithful, conceived 
illicit desires, may my father keep that seed from me,' 
that is the scriptural text." Manu ix., 19, 20. 

Such distrust and such low estimate of wo- 
man's nature and character in general, is at 
the root of the custom of seclusion of women 
in India. This mischievous custom has greatly 
increased and has become intensely tyrannical 
since the Mahomedan invasion ; but that it 
existed from about the sixth century, B.C., 
cannot be denied. All male relatives are com- 
manded by the law to deprive the women of 
the household of all their freedom : 

" Day and night women must be kept in dependence 
by the males of their families, and if they attach them- 
selves to sensual enjoyments, they must be kept under 
one's control." 

" Her father protects her in childhood, her husband pro- 
tects her in youth, and her sons protect her in old age ; 
a woman is never fit for independence." Manu ix., 2, 3. 

"Women must particularly be guarded against evil in- 

In Religion and Society. 5 5 

clinations, however trifling they may appear ; for if they 
are not guarded, they will bring sorrow on two families." 

"Considering that the highest duty of all castes, even 
weak husbands must strive to guard their wives." Manu 
ix., 5, 6. 

" No man can completely guard women by force ; but 
they can be guarded by the employment of the following 
expedients : " 

" Let the husband employ his wife in the collection 
and expenditure of his wealth, in keeping everything 
clean, in the fulfilment of religious duties, in the prepara- 
tion of his food, and in looking after the household uten- 
sils." Manu ix., 10, n. 

Those who diligently and impartially read 
Sanscrit literature in the original, cannot fail 
to recognize the law-giver Manu as one of 
those hundreds who have done their best to 
make woman a hateful being in the world's eye. 
To employ her in housekeeping and kindred 
occupations is thought to be the only means 
of keeping her out of mischief, the blessed 
enjoyment of literary culture being denied her. 
She is forbidden to read the sacred scriptures, 
she has no right to pronounce a single sylla- 
ble out of them. To appease her uncultivated, 
low kind of desire by giving her ornaments 

56 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

to adorn her person, and by giving her 
dainty food together with an occasional bow 
which costs nothing, are the highest honors 
to which a Hindu woman is entitled. She, 
the loving mother of the nation, the devoted 
wife, the tender sister and affectionate daugh- 
ter is never fit for independence, and is "as 
impure as falsehood itself." She is never to 
be trusted ; matters of importance are never 
to be committed to her. 

I can say honestly and truthfully, that I 
have never read any sacred book in Sanscrit 
literature without meeting this kind of hateful 
sentiment about women. True, they contain 
here and there a kind word about them, but 
such words seem to me a heartless mockery 
after having charged them, as a class, with 
crime and evil deeds. 

Profane literature is by no means less severe 
or more respectful towards women. I quote 
from the ethical teachings, parts of a catechism 
and also a few proverbs : 

In Religion and Society. 5 7 

Q. What is cruel? 

A. The heart of a viper. 

Q. What is more cruel than that? 

A. The heart of a woman. 

Q. What is the crudest of all ? 

A. The heart of a sonless, penniless widow. 

A catechism on moral subjects written by a 
Hindu gentleman of high literary reputation 
says : 

Q. What is the chief gate to hell ? 

A. A woman. 

Q. What bewitches like wine? 

A. A woman. 

Q. Who is the wisest of the wise ? 

A. He who has not been deceived by women who may 
be compared to malignant fiends. 

Q. What are fetters to men? 

A. Women. 

Q. What is that which cannot be trusted? 

A. Women. 

Q. What poison is that which appears like nectar? 

A. Women. 


"Never put your trust in women." 

" Women's counsel leads to destruction." 

" Woman is a great whirlpool of suspicion, a dwelling- 
place of vices, full of deceits, a hindrance in the way of 
heaven, the gate of hell." 

58 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

Having fairly illustrated the popular belief 
about woman's nature, I now proceed to state 
woman's religion. Virtues such as truthful- 
ness, forbearance, fortitude, purity of heart 
and uprightness, are common to men and 
women, but religion, as the word is commonly 
understood, has two distinct natures in the 
Hindu law ; the masculine and the feminine. 
The masculine religion has its own peculiar 
duties, privileges and honors. The feminine 
religion also has its peculiarities. 

The sum and substance of the latter may be 
given in a few words : To look upon her 
husband as a god, to hope for salvation only 
through him, to be obedient to him in all 
things, never to covet independence, never to 
do anything but that which is approved by 
law and custom. 

"Hear now the duties of women," says the 
law-giver, Manu : 

"By a girlf^by a young woman, or even by an aged 
one, nothing must be done independently, even in her 
own house." 

Religion and Society. 

"In childhood, alfemnje must be subject to her 
in youth, to her hu^sband/Vhen her lord is dead", to her 
sons ; a woman must never 

" She must not seek to separateyiteraelf from her father, 
husband, or sons ; by leaving/iiiem she would, make both 
her own and her husb^rtFs families contemptible.^' '.. 

"She must abrfJys be cheerful, clever in the manage- 


ment of JWT household affairs, careful in cleaning her 

economical in expenditure." 

to whom her father may give her, or her bro- 
ther with the father's permission, she shall obey as long 
as he lives, and when he is dead, she must not insult his 

"For the sake of procuring good fortune to brides, the 
recitation of benedictory texts, and the sacrifice to the 
Lord of creatures are used at weddings ; but the be- 
trothal by the father or guardian is the cause of the hus- 
band's dominion over his wife." 

"The husband who wedded her with sacred texts, al- 
ways gives happiness to his wife, both in season and out 
of season, in this world and in the next." 

" Though destitute of virtue, or seeking pleasure else- 
where, or devoid of good qualities, yet a husband must 
be constantly worshipped as a god by a faithful wife." 

" No sacrifice, no vow, no fast must be performed by 
women apart from their husbands ; if a wife obeys her 
husband, she will for that reason alone, be exalted in 

"A faithful wife, who desires to dwell after death with 
her husband, must never do anything that might dis- 
please him who took her hand whether he be alive or 
dead." Manu v., 147-156. 

The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

^^3^ violating her duty towards her husband, a wife is 
disgraced *in>> this world, after death she enters the womb 
of a jackal, ancMj tormented by diseases, the punishment 
of her sin." 

"She w^?, controlling her ^houghts, words and deeds, 
nevev" Mights her lord, resides after death with her hus- 
band in heaven, and is called a virtu ow; wife." 

" In reward of such conduct, a female who controls her 
thoughts, speech and actions, gains in this life highest 
renown, and in the next world a place near her hus- 
band." Manu v., 164-166. 


" He only is a perfect man who consists of three per- 
sons united, his wife, himself and his offspring ; thus 
says the Veda, and learned Brahmanas propound this 
maxim likewise, ' The husband is declared to be one with 
the wife.' " Manu ix., 45. 

The wife is declared to be the "marital 
property" of her husband, and is classed with 
" cows, mares, female camels, slave-girls, buf- 
falo-cows, she-goats and ewes." (See Manu ix., 


The wife is punishable for treating her hus- 
band with aversion : 

" For one year let a husband bear with a wife who 
hates him ; but after a lapse of a year, let him deprive 
her of her property and cease to live with her." 

In Religion and Society. 61 

"She who shows disrespect to a husband who is 
dieted to some evil passion, is a drunkard, 
shall be deserted for three months, andirfe deprived of 
her ornaments and furniture." Mantfvx.., 77, 78. 

"She who drinks spirituous^fjuor, is of bad conduct, 
rebellious, diseased, mischievous or wasteful, may at any 
time be superseded by another wife." 

"A barren wife may be superseded in the eighth year, 
she whose children all die in the tenth, she who bears 
only daughters in the eleventh, but she who is quarrel- 
some without delay." Manu ix., So, Si. 

" A wife who, being superseded, in anger departs from 
her husband's house, must either be instantly confined 
or cast off in the presence of the family." Manu bz., 83. 

"Though a man may have accepted a damsel in due 
form, he may abandon her if she be blemished or diseased, 
and if she have been given with fraud." Manu ix., 72. 

But no such provision is made for the wo- 
man ; on the contrary, she must remain with 
and revere her husband as a god, even though 
he be destitute of virtue, or seek pleasure 
elsewhere, or devoid of good qualities, addicted 
to evil passion, fond of spirituous liquors or 
diseased, and what not ! 

How much impartial justice is shown in the 
treatment of womankind by Hindu law, can be 
fairly understood after reading the above quota- 

62 The High-Caste Hindu Woman. 

tions. In olden times these laws were enforced 
by the community ; a husband had absolute 
power over his wife ; she could do nothing but 
submit to his will without uttering a word of 
protest. Now, under the so-called Christian 
British rule, the woman is in no better con- 
dition than of old. True, the husband cannot 
as in the golden age, take her wherever she 
may be found, and drag her to his house, but 
his absolute power over her person has not 
suffered in the least He is now bound to 
bring suit against her in the courts of justice 
to claim his " marital property," if she be 
unwilling to submit to him by any other 

A near relative of mine had been given in 
her childhood in marriage to a boy whose 
parents agreed to let him stay and be educated 
with her in her own home. No sooner how- 
ever, had the marriage ceremony been con- 
cluded than they forgot their agreement ; the 
boy was taken to the home of his parents 
where he remained to grow up to be a worth- 

In Religion and Society. 63 

less dunce, while his wife through the kind- 
ness and advanced views of her father, devel- 
oped into a bright young woman and well 

Thirteen years later, the young man came to 
claim his wife, but the parents had no heart 
to send their darling daughter with a beggar 
who possessed neither the power nor the sense 
to make an honest living, and was unable to 
support and protect his wife. The wife too, 
had no wish to go with him since he was a 
stranger to her ; under the circumstances she 
could neither love nor respect him. A num- 
ber of orthodox people in the community who 
saw no reason why a wife should not follow 
her husband even though he be a worthless 
man, collected funds to enable him to sue her 
and her parents in the British Court of Jus- 
tice. The case was examined with due cere- 
mony and the verdict was given in the man's 
favor, according to Hindu law.* The wife 

*In all cases except those directly connected with life 
and death, the British Government is bound according to 

64 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

was doomed to go with him. Fortunately 
she was soon released from this sorrowful 
world by cholera. Whatever may be said of 
the epidemics that yearly assail our country, 
they are not unwelcome among the unfortu- 
nate women who are thus persecuted by so- 
cial, religious and State laws. Many women 
put an end to their earthly sufferings by 
committing suicide. Suits at law between hus- 
band and wife are remarkable for their rarity 
in the British Courts in India, owing to the 
ever submissive conduct of women who suffer 
silently, knowing that the gods and justice 
always favor the men. 

The case of Rakhmabai, that has lately 
profoundly agitated Hindu society, is only 
one of thousands of the same class. The 
remarkable thing about her is that she is 
a well-educated lady, who was brought up 
under the loving care of her father, and had 

the treaties concluded with the inhabitants of India, not 
to interfere with their social and religious customs and 
laws ; judicial decisions are given accordingly. 

In Religion and Society. 65 

learned from him how to defend herself against 
the assaults of social and religious bigotries. 
But as soon as her father died the man who 
claimed to be her husband, brought suit 
against her in the court of Bombay. The 
young woman bravely defended herself, declin- 
ing to go to live with the man on the ground 
that the marriage that was concluded without 
her consent could not be legally considered as 
such. Mr. Justice Pinhey, who tried the case 
in the first instance, had a sufficient sense of 
justice to refuse to force the lady to live 
with her husband against her will. Upon 
hearing this decision, the conservative party 
all over India rose as one man and girded 
their loins to denounce the helpless woman 
and her handful of friends. They encouraged 
the alleged husband to stand his ground firmly, 
threatening the British government with pub- 
lic displeasure if it failed to keep its agree- 
ment to force the woman to go to live with 
the husband according to Hindu law. Large 
sums were collected for the benefit of this 

66 The High-Caste Hindu Woman. 

man, Dadajee, to enable him to appeal against 
the decision to the full bench, whereupon, to 
the horror of all right-thinking people, the 
chief-justice sent back the case to the lower 
court for re-trial on its merits, as judged by 
the Hindu laws. The painful termination of 
this trial, I have in a letter written by my 
dear friend Rakhmabai herself, bearing date 
Bombay, March i8th, 1887. I quote from her 
letter : 

" The learned and civilized judges of the full bench are 
determined to enforce, in this enlightened age, the in- 
human laws enacted in barbaric times, four thousand 
years ago. They have not only commanded me to go 
to live with the man, but also have obliged me to pay 
the costs of the dispute. Just think of this extraordinary 
decision ! Are we not living under the impartial British 
government, which boasts of giving equal justice to all, 
and are we not ruled by the Queen-Empress Victoria, 
herself a woman ? My dear friend, I shall have been 
cast into the State prison when this letter reaches you ; 
this is because I do not, and cannot obey the order of 
Mr. Justice Farran. 

"There is no hope for women in India, whether they 
be under Hindu rule or British rule ; some are of the 
opinion that my case so cruelly decided, may bring about 
a better condition for woman by turning public opinion in 

In Religion and Society. 67 

her favor, but I fear it will be otherwise. The hard-hearted 
mothers-in-law will now be greatly strengthened, and will 
induce their sons, who have for some reason or other, 
been slow to enforce the conjugal rights to sue their 
wives in the British Courts, since they are now fully as- 
sured that under no circumstances can the British gov- 
ernment act adversely to the Hindu law." 

Taught by the experience of the past, we 
are not at all surprised at this decision of the 
Bombay court. Our only wonder is that a 
defenseless woman like Rakhmabai dared to 
raise her voice in the face of the powerful 
Hindu law, the mighty British government, 
the one hundred and twenty-nine million men 
and the three hundred and thirty million gods 
of the Hindus, all these having conspired to- 
gether to crush her into nothingness. We 
cannot blame the English government for 
not defending a helpless woman ; it is only 
fulfilling its agreement made with the male 
population of India. How very true are the 
words of the Saviour, ' ' Ye cannot serve God 
and Mammon." Should England serve God 
by protecting a helpless woman against the 

68 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

powers and principalities of ancient institu- 
tions, Mammon would surely be displeased, 
and British profit and rule in India might be 
endangered thereby. Let us wish it success, 
no matter if that success be achieved at the 
sacrifice of the rights and the comfort of over 
one hundred million women. 

Meanwhile, we shall patiently await the ad- 
vent of the kingdom of righteousness, wherein 
the weak, the lowly and the helpless shall be 
made happy because the great Judge Himself 
"shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." 

Widowhood. 69 



WE now come to the worst and most dreaded 
period of a high-caste woman's life. Through- 
out India, widowhood is regarded as the pun- 
ishment for a horrible crime or crimes com- 
mitted by the woman in her former existence 
upon earth. The period of punishment may 
be greater or less, according to the nature of 
the crime. Disobedience and disloyalty to the 
husband, or murdering him in an earlier exis- 
tence are the chief crimes punished in the 
present birth by widowhood. 

If the widow be a mother of sons, she is 
not usually a pitiable object ; although she is 
certainly looked upon as a sinner, yet social 

70 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

abuse and hatred are greatly dimished in vir- 
tue of the fact that she is a mother of the 
superior beings. Next in rank to her stands 
an ancient widow, because a virtuous, aged 
widow who has bravely withstood the thou- 
sand temptations and persecutions of her lot 
commands an involuntary respect from all 
people, to which may be added the honor 
given to old age quite independent of the in- 
dividual. The widow-mother of girls is treated 
indifferently and sometimes with genuine ha- 
tred, especially so, when her daughters have 
not been given in marriage in her husband's 
life-time. But it is the child-widow or a 
childless young widow upon whom in an espe- 
cial manner falls the abuse and hatred of the 
community as the greatest criminal upon whom 
Heaven's judgment has been pronounced. 

In ancient times when the code of Manu 
was yet in the dark future and when the 
priesthood had not yet mutilated the original 
reading of a Vedic text concerning widows, a 
custom of re-marriage was in existence. 

Widowhood. 7 1 

Its history may be briefly stated : The rite 
of child-marriage left many a girl a widow 
before she knew what marriage was, and her 
husband having died sonless had no right to 
enter into heaven and enjoy immortality, for 
' ' the father throws his debts on the son and 
obtains immortality if he sees the face of a 
living son. It is declared in the Vedas, 
endless are the worlds of those who have 
sons ; there is no place for the man who is 
destitute of male offspring." The greatest 
curse that could be pronounced on enemies, 
was "may our enemies be destitute of off- 
spring. ' ' 

In order that these young husbands might 
attain the abodes of the blessed, the ancient 
sages invented the custom of ' ' appointment ' ' 
by which as among the Jews, the Hindu Ar- 
yans raised up seed for the deceased husband. 
The husband's brother, cousin or other kins- 
man successively was ' ' appointed ' ' and duly 
authorized to raise up offspring to the dead. 
The desired issue having been obtained any 

72 The High-Caste Hindu Woman. 

intercourse between the appointed persons was 
thenceforth considered illegal and sinful. 

The woman still remained the widow of 
her deceased husband, and her children by 
the appointment were considered his heirs. 
Later on, this custom of "appointment" was 
gradually discouraged in spite of the Vedic 
text already quoted "there is no place for the 
man who is destitute of male offspring." 

The duties of a widow are thus described 
in the code of Manu : 

" At her pleasure let her emaciate her body by living 
on pure flowers, roots and fruit ; but she must never even 
mention the name of another man after her husband has 

" Until death let her be patient of hardships, self-con- 
trolled, and chaste, and strive to fulfil that most excellent 
duty which is prescribed for wives who have one husband 
only." Manu v., 157, 158. 

" . . . . Nor is a second husband anywhere prescribed 
for virtuous women." Manu v., 162. 

" A virtuous wife who after the death of her husband 
constantly remains chaste, reaches heaven, . . . " Manu 
v., 160. 

" In reward of such conduct, a female who controls her 
thoughts, speech, and actions, gains in this life highest 

Widowhood. 7$ 

renown, and in the next world a place near her hus- 
band." *Manu v., 166. 

The following are the rules for a widower : 

"A twice-born man, versed in the sacred law, shall 
burn a wife of equal caste who conducts herself thus 
and dies before him, with the sacred fires used for the 
Agnihotra, and with the sacrificial implements." 

" Having thus at the funeral, given the sacred fires to 
his wife who dies before him, he may marry again, and 
again kindle the (nuptial) fires." 

" .... And having taken a wife, he must dwell in 
his own house during the second period of his life. 
Manu v., 167-169. 

The self-immolation of widows on their de- 
ceased husband's pyre was evidently a cus- 
tom invented by the priesthood after the code 
of Manu was compiled. The laws taught 
in the schools of Apastamba, Asvalayana and 
others older than Manu do not mention it, 

*It should be borne in mind that according to the 
popular belief there is no other heaven to a woman 
than the seat or mansion of her husband, where she 
shares the heavenly bliss with him in the next world if 
she be faithful to him in thought, word and deed. The 
only place where she can be independent of him is in 

74 The High-Caste Hindu Woman. 

neither does the code of Manu. The code of 
Vishnu which is comparatively recent, says, 
that a woman "after the death of her husband 
should either lead a virtuous life or ascend 
the funeral pile of her husband." Vishnu 
xxv., 2. 

It is very difficult to ascertain the motives of 
those who invented the terrible custom of the 
so-called Suttee, which was regarded as a sub- 
limely meritorious act. As Manu the greatest 
authority next to the Vedas did not sanction 
this sacrifice, the priests saw the necessity of 
producing some text which would overcome 
the natural fears of the widow as well as 
silence the critic who should refuse to allow 
such a horrid rite without strong authority. 
So the priests said there was a text in the 
Rig-veda which according to their own ren- 
dering reads thus : 

"Om! let these women, not to be widowed, good -wives, 
adorned with colly rium, holding clarified butter, consign 
themselves to the fire ! Immortal, not childless, not hus- 
bandless, well adorned with gems, let them pass into the 
fire whose original element is water." 

Widowhood. 75 

Here was an authority greater than that of 
Manu or of any other law giver, which could 
not be disobeyed. The priests and their allies, 
pictured heaven in the most beautiful colors 
and described various enjoyments so vividly 
that the poor widow became madly impatient 
to get to the blessed place in company with 
her departed husband. Not only was the wo- 
man assured of her getting into heaven by 
this sublime act, but also that by this great 
sacrifice she would secure salvation to herself 
and husband, and to their families to the 
seventh generation. Be they ever so sinful, 
they would surely attain the highest bliss in 
heaven, and prosperity on earth. Who would 
not sacrifice herself if she were sure of such a 
result to herself and her loved ones? Besides 
this, she was conscious of the miseries and 
degradation to which she would be subjected 
now that she had survived her husband. The 
momentary agony of suffocation in the flames 
was nothing compared to her lot as a widow. 
She gladly consented and voluntarily offered 

76 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

herself to please the gods and men. The 
rite of Suttee is thus described : 

"The widow bathed, put on new and bright garments, 
and, holding Kusha grass in her left hand, sipped water 
from her right palm, scattered some Tila grains, and then, 
looking eastward, quietly said, ' Om ! on this day I, such 
and such a one, of such a family, die in the fire, that I 
may meet Arundhati, and reside in Svarga ; that the years 
of my sojourn there may be as many as the hairs upon 
my husband, many scores multiplied ; that I may enjoy 
with him the facilities of heaven, and bless my maternal 
and paternal ancestors, and those of my lord's line ; that 
praised by Apsarasas, I may go far through the fourteen 
regions of Indra ; that pardon may be given to my lord's 
sins whether he have ever killed a Brahman, broken the 
laws of gratitude and truth, or slain his friend. Now I do 
ascend this funeral pile of my husband, and I call upon 
you, guardians of the eight regions of the world, of sun, 
moon, air, of the fire, the ether, the earth and the water, 
and my own soul. Yama, King of Death, and you, Day, 
Night and Twilight, witness that I die for my beloved, by 
his side upon his funeral pile.' Is it wonderful that the 
passage of the Sati to her couch of flame was like a 
public festival, that the sick and sorrowful prayed her to 
touch them with her little, fearless, conquering hand, 
that criminals were let loose if she looked upon them, 
that the horse which carried her was never used again 
for earthly service?" (E. Arnold.) 

The act was supposed to be altogether a 

Widowhood. 77 

voluntary one, and no doubt it was so in 
many cases. Some died for the love stronger 
than death which they cherished for their 
husbands. Some died not because they had 
been happy in this world, but because they 
believed with all the heart that they should 
be made happy hereafter. Some to obtain 
great renown, for tombstones and monuments 
were erected to those who thus died, and 
afterwards the names were inscribed on the 
long list of family gods ; others again, to 
escape the thousand temptations, and sins and 
miseries which they knew would fall to their 
lot as widows. Those who from pure ambi- 
tion or from momentary impulse, declared their 
intentions thus to die, very often shrank from 
the fearful altar ; no sooner did they feel the 
heat of the flames than they tried to leap 
down and escape the terrible fate ; but it was 
too late. They had taken the solemn oath 
which must never be broken, priests and 
other men were at hand to force them to re- 
mount the pyre. In Bengal, where this cus- 

78 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

torn was most in practice, countless, fearful 
tragedies of this description occurred even after 
British rule was long established there. Chris- 
tian missionaries petitioned the government to 
abolish this inhuman custom, but they were 
told that the social and religious customs of 
the people constituted no part of the business 
of the government, and that their rule in In- 
dia might be endangered by such interference. 
The custom went on unmolested until the 
first quarter of the present century, when a 
man from among the Hindus, Raja Ram 
Mohun Roy, set his face against it, and de- 
clared that it was not sanctioned by the Veda 
as the priests claimed. He wrote many books 
on this subject, showing the wickedness of the 
act, and with the noble co-operation of a few 
friends, he succeeded at last in getting the 
government to abolish it. Lord William Ben- 
tinck, when Governor-general of India, had 
the moral courage to enact the famous law of 
1829, prohibiting the Suttee rite within British 
domains, and holding as criminals, subject to 

Widowhood. 79 

capital punishment, those who countenanced 
it. But it was not until 1844 that the law 
had any effect upon orthodox Hindu minds. 

That the text quoted from the Veda was 
mistranslated, and a part of it forged, could 
have been easily shown had all Brahmans 
known the meaning of the Veda. The Ve- 
dic language is the oldest form of Sanskrit, 
and greatly differs from the later form. Many 
know the Vedas by heart and repeat them 
without a mistake, but few indeed, are those 
that know the meaning of the texts they re- 
peat. "The Rig-veda," says Max Muller, 
1 ' so far from enforcing the burning of wi- 
dows, shows clearly that this custom was not 
sanctioned during the earliest period of Indian 
history. According to the hymns of the Rig- 
veda, and the Vedic ceremonial contained in 
the Grihya-sutras, the wife accompanies the 
corpse of her husband to the funeral pile, but 
she is there addressed with a verse taken from 
the Rig-veda, and ordered to leave her hus- 
band and to return to the world of the living." 

8o The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

" ' Rise, woman,' it is said, 'come to the 
world of life, thou sleepest nigh unto him 
whose life is gone. Come to us. Thou hast 
thus fulfilled the duties of a wife to the hus- 
band, who once took thy hand and made thee 
a mother.' " 

' ' This verse is preceded by the very verse 
which the later Brahmans have falsified and 
quoted in support of their cruel tenet. The 
reading of the verse is beyond all doubt, for 
there is no various reading, in our sense of 
the word, in the whole of Rig-veda. Besides, 
we have the commentaries and the ceremon- 
ials, and nowhere is there any difference to 
the text or its meaning. It is addressed to 
the other women who are present at the fune- 
ral, and who have to pour oil and butter on 
the pile . 

u 'May these women who are not widows, 
but have good husbands, draw near with oil 
and butter. These who are mothers may go 
up first to the altar, without tears, without 
sorrow, but decked with fine jewels. ' ' ' 

Widowhood. 8 1 

It was by falsifying a single syllable that 
the unscrupulous priests managed to change 
entirely the meaning of the whole verse. 
Those who know the Sanskrit characters can 
easily understand that the falsification very 
likely originated in the carelessness of the 
transcriber or copyist, but for all that the 
priests who permitted the error are not ex- 
cusable in the least. Instead of comparing the 
verse with its context, they translated it as 
their fancy dictated and thus under the pre- 
text of religion they have been the cause of 
destroying countless lives for more than two 
thousand years. 

Now that the Suttee-rite, partly by the will 
of the people and partly by the law of the 
empire, is prohibited, many good people feel 
easy in their minds, thinking that the Hindu 
widow has been delivered from the hand of 
her terrible fate ; but little do they realize 
the true state of affairs ! 

Throughout India, except in the Northwest- 
ern Provinces, women are put to the severest 

82 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

trial imaginable after the husband's death. 
The manner in which they are brought up 
and treated from their earliest childhood com- 
pels them to be slaves to their own petty 
little interests, to be passionate lovers of orna- 
ments and of self-adornment, but no sooner 
does the husband die than they are deprived 
of every gold and silver ornament, of the 
bright-colored garments, and of all the things 
they love to have about or on their persons. 
The cruelty of social customs does not stop 
here. Among the Brahmans of Deccan the 
heads of all widows must be shaved regularly 
every fortnight. Some of the lower castes, 
too, have adopted this custom of shaving 
widows' heads, and have much pride in imi- 
tating their high-caste brethren. What woman 
is there who does not love the wealth of soft 
and glossy hair with which nature has so 
generously decorated her head? A Hindu 
woman thinks it worse than death to lose her 
beautiful hair. Girls of fourteen and fifteen 
who hardly know the reason why they are 

Widowhood. 83 

so cruelly deprived of everything they like, 
are often seen wearing sad countenances, their 
eyes swollen from shedding bitter tears. They 
are glad to find a dark corner where they 
may hide their faces as if they had done 
something shameful and criminal. The widow 
must wear a single coarse garment, white, red 
or brown. She must eat only one meal dur- 
ing the twenty-four hours of a day. She 
must never take part in family feasts and 
jubilees, with others. She must not show 
herself to people on auspicious occasions. A 
man or woman thinks it unlucky to behold a 
widow's face before seeing any other object 
in the morning. A man will postpone his 
journey if his path happens to be crossed by 
a widow at the time of his departure. 

A widow is called an "inauspicious" thing. 
The name "rand," by which she 'is generally 
known, is the same that is borne by a Nautch 
girl or a harlot. The relatives and neighbors 
of the young widow's husband are always 
ready to call her bad names, and to address 

84 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

her in abusive language at every opportunity. 
There is scarcely a day of her life on which 
she is not cursed by these people as the cause 
of their beloved friend's death. The mother- 
in-law gives vent to her grief by using such 
language as, when once heard, burns into a 
human heart. In short, the young widow's 
life is rendered intolerable in every possible 
way. There may be exceptions to this rule, 
but, unhappily, they are not many. In addi- 
tion to all this, the young widow is always 
looked upon with suspicion, and closely guarded 
as if she were a prisoner, for fear she may at 
any time bring disgrace upon the family by 
committing some improper act. The purpose 
of disfiguring her by shaving her head, by not 
allowing her to put ornaments or bright, beau- 
tiful garments on her person, is to render her 
less attractive to a man's eye. Not allowing 
her to eat more than once a day, and compel- 
ling her to abstain from food altogether on 
sacred days, is a part of the discipline by 
which to mortify her youthful nature and de- 

Widowhood. 85 

sire. She is closely confined to the house, 
forbidden even to associate with her female 
friends as often as she wishes ; no man except 
her father, brother, uncles and her aunt-cou- 
sins (who are regarded as brothers) are allowed 
to see or speak with her. Her life then, desti- 
tute as it is of the least literary knowledge, 
void of all hope, empty of every pleasure and 
social advantage, becomes intolerable, a curse 
to herself and to society at large. She has 
but few persons to sympathize with her. Her 
own parents, with whom she lives in case her 
husband has no relatives, or if his relatives 
are unable to take care of her, do, of course, 
sympathize with her, but custom and religious 
faith have a stronger hold upon them than 
parental love. They, too, regard their daugh- 
ter with concern, lest she bring disgrace upon 
their family. 

It is not an uncommon thing for a young 
widow without occupation that may satisfy 
mind and heart, and unable longer to endure 
the slights and suspicions to which she is per- 

86 The Hihr Caste Hindu Woman. 

petually subjected, to escape from her prison- 
home. But when she gets away from it, 
where shall she go? No respectable family, 
even of a lower caste, will have her for a 
servant. She is completely ignorant of any 
art by which she may make an honest living. 
She has nothing but the single garment 
which she wears on her person. Starvation 
and death stare her in the face ; no ray 
of hope penetrates her densely-darkened mind. 
What can she do? The only alternative be- 
fore her is either to commit suicide or, worse 
still, accept a life of infamy and shame. Oh, 
cruel, cruel is the custom that drives thou- 
sands of young widows to such a fate. Here 
is a prayer by a woman doomed to life-long 
misery, which will describe her own and her 
sisters' feelings better than any words of 
mine. It was written by a pupil of a British 
Zenana missionary, one of the few Hindu wo- 
men who can read and write, and one who has 
tasted the bitter sorrows and degradation of 
Hindu widowhood from her childhood, 

Widowhood. 87 

" Oh Lord, hear my prayer ! No one has turned an eye 
on the oppression that we poor women suffer, though with 
weeping, and crying and desire, we have turned to all 
sides, hoping that some one would save us. No one has 
lifted up his eyelids to look upon us, nor inquire into 
our case. We have searched above and below, but Thou 
art the only One who wilt hear our complaint, Thou 
knowest our impotence, our degradation, our dishonor. 

" O Lord, inquire into our case. For ages dark igno- 
rance has brooded over our minds and spirits ; like a cloud 
of dust it rises and wraps us round, and we are like pris- 
oners in an old and mouldering house, choked and bur- 
ied in the dust of custom, and we have no strength to 
go out. Bruised and beaten, we are like the dry husks 
of the sugar-cane when the sweet juice has been ex- 
tracted. All-knowing God, hear our prayer ! forgive our 
sins and give us power of escape, that we may see some- 
thing of Thy world. O Father, when shall we be set 
free from this jail ? For what sin have we been born to 
live in this prison ? From Thy throne of judgment jus- 
tice flows, but it does not reach us ; in this, our life-long 
misery, only injustice comes near us. 

"Thou hearer of prayer, if we have sinned against 
Thee, forgive, but we are too ignorant to know what sin 
is. Must the punishment of sin fall on those who are 
too ignorant to know what it is? O great Lord, our 
name is written with drunkards, with lunatics, with im- 
beciles, with the very animals ; as they are not responsi- 
ble, we are not. Criminals, confined in the jails for life, 
are happier than we, for they know something of Thy 
world. They were not born in prison, but we have not 

88 The High-Caste Hindu Woman. 

for one day, no, not even in our dreams, seen Thy world; 
to us it is nothing but a name ; and not having seen the 
world, we cannot know Thee, its maker. Those who have 
seen Thy works may learn to understand Thee, but for 
us, who are shut in, it is not possible to learn to know 
Thee. We see only the four walls of the house. Shall 
we call them the world, or India ? We have been born 
in this jail, we have died here, and are dying. 

"O Father of the world, hast Thou not created us? 
Or has perchance, some other god made us ? Dost Thou 
care only for men ? Hast Thou no thought for us wo- 
men ? Why hast Thou created us male and female ? O 
Almighty, hast Thou not power to make us other than 
we are, that we too might have some share in the com- 
forts of this life ? The cry of the oppressed is heard even 
in the world. Then canst Thou look upon our victim 
hosts, and shut Thy doors of justice 7 O God Almighty 
and Unapproachable, think upon Thy mercy, which is 
a vast sea, and remember us. O Lord, save us, for we 
cannot bear our hard lot ; many of us have killed our- 
selves, and we are still killing ourselves. O God of 
mercy, our prayer to Thee is this, that the curse may 
be removed from the women of India. Create in the 
hearts of the men some sympathy, that our lives may no 
longer be passed in vain longing, that saved by Thy 
mercy, we may taste something of the joys of life." 

A Hindu gentleman contributes an article 
entitled "The Hindu Widow," to The Nine- 
teenth Century. I quote from this as testi- 

Widowhood. 89 

mony from the other sex, of the truthfulness 
of my statement, lest I should appear to ex- 
aggerate the miserable condition to which my 
sister-widows are doomed for life : 

" The widow who has no parents has to pass her whole 
life under the roof of her father-in-law, and then she 
knows no comfort whatever. She has to meet from her 
late husband's relations only unkind looks and unjust re- 
proaches. She has to work like a slave, and for the 
reward of all her drudgery she only receives hatred and 
abhorrence from her mother-in-law and sisters-in-law. If 
there is any disorder in the domestic arrangements of the 
family the widow is blamed and cursed for it. Among 
Hindus, women cannot inherit any paternal property, and 
if a widow is left any property by her husband she can- 
not call it her own. All her wealth belongs to her son, 
if she has any, and if she has nobody to inherit it she 
is made to adopt an heir, and give him all her property 
directly he comes of age, and herself live on a bare allow- 
ance granted by him. Even death cannot save a widow 
from indignities. For when a wife dies she is burnt in 
the clothes she had on, but a widow's corpse is covered 
with a coarse white cloth, and there is little ceremony at 
her funeral 

"'The English have abolished Sati (Suttee), but alas! 
neither the English nor the angels know what goes on 
in our houses, and the Hindus not only do not care, but 
think it good ! ' Such were the words of a widow ; 
and well might she exclaim that ' neither the English 

9O The High-Caste Hindu Woman. 

nor the angels know, and that the Hindus not only don't 
care, but think it good ; ' for Hindu as I am, I can vouch 
for her statement that very few Hindus have a fair know- 
ledge of the actual sufferings of the widows among them, 
and fewer still care to know the evils and horrors of the 
barbarous custom which victimizes their own sisters and 
daughters in so ruthless a manner ; nay, on the contrary, 
the majority of the orthodox Hindus consider the practice 
to be good and salutary. Only the Hindu widows know 
their own sufferings ; it is perfectly impossible for any 
other mortal, or even 'the angels,' (as the widow says), 
to realize them. One can easily imagine how hard the 
widow's lot must be .... when to the continuous 
course of fastings, self-inflictions and humiliations is added 
the galling ill-treatment which she receives from her own 
relations and friends. To a Hindu widow death is a 
thousand times more welcome than her miserable exis- 
tence. It is no doubt this feeling that drove in former 
times many widows to immolate themselves on the funeral 
pyres of their dead husbands." DEVENDRA N. DAS, Nine- 
teenth Century, September, 1886. 

There is a class of reformers who think that 
they will meet all the wants of widows by es- 
tablishing the re-marriage system. This sys- 
tem should certainly be introduced for the 
benefit of the infant widows who wish to 
marry on coming to age ; but at the same 
time it should be remembered that this alone 

Widowhood. 91 

is incapable and insufficient to meet their 

In the first place, widow-marriage among 
the high-caste people will not for a long time 
become an approved custom. The old idea 
is too deeply rooted in the heart of society 
to be soon removed. Secondly, there are not 
many men who will boldly come forward and 
marry widows, even if the widows wish it. 
It is one thing to talk about doing things 
contrary to the approved custom, but to prac- 
tice is quite another matter. It is now about 
fifty years since the movement called widow- 
marriage among the high-caste Hindus was 
started, but those who have practiced it are 
but few. I have known men of great learn- 
ing and high reputation who took oaths to 
the effect that if they were to become widow- 
ers and wished to marry again they would 
marry widows. But no sooner had their first 
wives died than they forgot all about the 
oaths and married pretty little maidens. So- 
ciety threatens them with excommunication, 

92 TJie High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

their friends and relatives entreat them with 
tears in their eyes, others offer money and 
maids if they will consent to give up the idea 
of marrying a widow. Can flesh and blood 
resist these temptations? If some men wish 
to be true to their convictions, they must be 
prepared to suffer perpetual martyrdom. After 
marrying a widow they are sure to be cut 
off from all connection with society and friends, 
and even with their nearest relatives. In such 
a case no faithful Hindu would ever give 
them assistance if they were to fall in distress 
or become unable to earn their daily bread ; 
they will be ridiculed by, and hated of all 
men. How many people are there in the 
world who would make this tremendous sacri- 
fice on the altar of conscience? The persecu- 
tion to be endured by people who transgress 
established customs is so great that life be- 
comes a burden. A few years ago a high- 
caste man in Cutch, (Northwestern India,) ven- 
tured to marry a widow, but to endure the 
persecution which ensued, was beyond his 

Widowhood. 93 

power, and the wretched fellow was soon after 
found dead, having committed suicide. 

Re-marriage, therefore, is not available, nor 
would it be at all times desirable, as a miti- 
gation of the sufferer's lot. So the poor, help- 
less high-caste widow with the one chance 
of ending her miseries in the Suttee rite 
taken away from her, remains as in ages past 
with none to help her. 

94 The High-Caste Hindu Woman. 



THOSE who have done their best to keep 
women in a state of complete dependence 
and ignorance, vehemently deny that this has 
anything to do with the present degradation of 
the Hindu nation. I pass over the hundreds 
of nonsenses which are brought forward as the 
strongest reasons for keeping women in igno- 
rance and dependence. They have already 
been forced out into the broad day-light of 
a generous civilization, and have been put to 
the fiery proof of science and found wanting. 
Above all, the noble example of thousands of 
women in many countries have burned the 

Condition of Women iipon Society. 95 

so-called reasons to ashes. But their ghosts 
are still hovering over the land of the Hindus 
and are frightening the timid and the igno- 
rant to death. Let us hope that in God's 
good time, all these devils shall be forever 
cast out of India's body ; meanwhile it is our 
duty to take the matter into serious considera- 
tion, and to put forth our best endeavors to 
hasten the glad day for India's daughters, aye, 
and for her sons also ; because in spite of the 
proud assertions of our brethren that they 
have not suffered from the degradation of 
women, their own condition betrays but too 
plainly the contrary. 

Since men and women are indissolubly uni- 
ted by Providence as members of the same 
body of human society, each must suffer when 
their fellow-members suffer, whether they will 
confess it or not. In the animal as well as in 
the vegetable kingdom, nature demands that 
all living beings shall freely comply with its 
conditions of growth or they cannot become 
that which they were originally designed to 

96 The High-Caste Hindu Woman. 

be. Why should any exception to this law 
be made for the purdah women? Closely 
confined to the four walls of their house, 
deprived throughout their lives of the op- 
portunity to breathe healthy fresh air, or to 
drink in the wholesome sunshine, they be- 
come weaker and weaker from generation to 
generation, their physical statures dwarfed, 
their spirits crushed under the weight of social 
prejudices and superstitions, and their minds 
starved from absolute lack of literary food and 
of opportunity to observe the world. Thus 
fettered, in ninety cases out of a hundred, at 
the least calculation, they grow to be selfish 
slaves to their petty individual interests, indif- 
ferent to the welfare of their own immediate 
neighbors, much more to their nation's well- 
being. How could these imprisoned mothers 
be expected to bring forth children better than 
themselves, for as the tree and soil are, so 
shall the fruit be. Consequently we see all 
around us in India a generation of men least 
deserving that exalted appellation. 

Condition of Women upon Society. 97 

The doctrine of "pre-natal influence" can 
nowhere be more satisfactorily proved than in 
India. The mother's spirits being depressed, 
and mind as well as body weakened by the 
monotony and inactivity of her life, the un- 
born child cannot escape the evil consequences. 
The men of Hindustan do not when babes, 
suck from the mother's breast, true patriotism, 
and in their boyhood, the mother, poor woman, 
is unable to develope that divine faculty in 
them owing to her utter ignorance of the past 
and present condition of her native land. 
Fault-finding with neighbors, bitter feelings 
towards tyrant relatives expressed in words 
and actions, selfish interest in personal and 
family affairs, these are the chief lessons that 
children learn at the mother's knee, from 
babyhood up to the seventh or eighth year of 

Again, how does it come to pass that each 
succeeding generation grows weaker than the 
one preceding it, if not because the progeni- 
tors of each generation lack the mental and 

98 The High-Caste Hindu Woman. 

physical strength which children are destined 
to inherit? The father may have been free 
and healthy in mind, as well as in body, but 
the mother was not ; she undoubtedly has 
bequeathed the fatal legacy of weakness and 
dullness to her children. The complete sub- 
mission of women under the Hindu law has 
in the lapse of milleniums of years converted 
them into slavery-loving creatures. They are 
glad to lean upon any one and be altogether 
dependent, and thus it has come to pass that 
their sons as a race, desire to depend upon 
some other nation, and not upon themselves. 
The seclusion, complete dependence and the 
absolute ignorance forced upon the mothers of 
our nation have been gradually and fatally 
telling upon the mental and physical health of 
the men, and in these last times they have 
borne the poisonous fruit that will compel the 
Hindu nation to die a miserable and pro- 
longed death if a timely remedy is not taken 
to them. 

Moreover the Hindu woman's ignorance 

Condition of Women upon Society. 99 

prevents liberal-minded and progressive men 
from making necessary and important changes 
in the manners and habits of the household ; 
bigoted women also prevent their husbands 
and sons from such important enterprises as 
crossing the ocean in the pursuit of useful 
knowledge, or for purposes of trade. 

To add to all the disabilities of the Hindu 
mother in the discharge of her sacred mater- 
nal duties, she is as a rule, wholly ignorant 
of the commonest hygienic laws. It must be 
remembered that she is herself a girl scarcely 
out of her babyhood, when she becomes a 
mother. At about fourteen, fifteen or sixteen 
years of age she cannot be expected to know 
all that is necessary in order to take good 
care of her child. The first and second of the 
children of this young mother usually die, and 
if they survive, they are apt to grow up to be 
weak and unhealthy adults. Until they are 
seven or eight years of age, the children of 
the household are left to themselves without 
any one to take care of them, and no in- 

ioo The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

fluence is exerted to mould their character at 
this most interesting and important period of 
life. Who but an intelligent and loving mo- 
ther can do this all-important work for her 
children at that age? 

Having thus far endeavored to bring to the 
notice of Western women the condition of a 
class of their oriental sisters, I now desire to 
direct their attention definitely to our chief 
needs. After many years of careful observa- 
tion and thought, I have come to the conclu- 
sion that the chief needs of high-caste Hindu 
women are : ist, Self-Reliance ; 2nd, Educa- 
tion ; 3rd, Native Women Teachers. 

7. Self-Reliance. The state of complete de- 
pendence in which men are required by the 
law-giver to keep women from birth to the 
end of their lives makes it impossible for 
them to have self-reliance, without which 
a human being becomes a pitiful parasite. 
Women of the working classes are better off 
than their sisters of high castes in India, for 

Condition of Women upon Society. 101 

in many cases they are obliged to depend upon 
themselves, and an opportunity for cultivating 
self-reliance is thus afforded them by which 
they largely profit. But high-caste women, 
unless their families are actually destitute 
of means to keep them, are shut up with- 
in the four walls of their house. In after- 
time, if they are left without a protector, i. e. 
a male relative to support and care for them, 
they literally do not know what to do with 
themselves. They have been so cruelly crop- 
ped in their early days that self-reliance and 
energy are dead within them ; helpless victims 
of indolence and false timidity they are easily 
frightened out of their wits and have little or 
no strength to withstand the trials and diffi- 
culties which must be encountered by a person 
on her way toward progress. But it is idle 
to hope that the condition of my country- 
women will ever improve without individual 
self-reliance ; therefore, is it not the duty of 
our Western sisters to teach them how they 
may become self-reliant? 

IO2 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

II. Education. The lack of education among 
the women of India can be fairly realized by 
scanning the report of the Educational Com- 
mission for 1883, and the census returns of 
1880-81. Of the ninety-nine million seven 
hundred thousand women and girls directly 
under British rule, ninety-nine and one-half 
millions are returned as unable to read and 
write ; the remaining two hundred thousand 
who are able either to read or write, cannot 
all be reckoned as educated, for the school- 
going period of a girl is generally between 
seven and nine years of age ; within that 
short time she acquires little more than ability 
to read the second or the third vernacular 
reading-book, and a little knowledge of arith- 
metic which usually comprehends no more 
than the four simple rules. It should be re- 
membered that the two hundred thousand 
women able to read or write are the "#/- 
umnce" of the government schools, mission 
schools, private schools conducted by the in- 
habitants of India independently, private socie- 

Condition of Women upon Society. 103 

ties and Zenana mission agencies all reckoned 
together. It is surprising how even this small 
number of women can have acquired the lim- 
ited knowledge indicated, when we consider the 
powers and principalities that are incessantly 
fighting against female education in India. 
Girls of nine and ten when recently out of 
school and given in marriage are wholly cut 
off from reading or writing, because it is a 
shame for a young woman or girl to hold a 
paper or book in her hand, or to read in the 
presence of others in her husband's house. It 
is a popular belief among high-caste women 
that their husbands will die if they should 
read or should hold a pen in their fingers. 
The fear of becoming a widow overcomes their 
hunger and thirst for knowledge. Moreover 
the little wives can get but scanty time to 
devote to self-culture ; any one fortunate 
enough to possess the desire and able to com- 
mand the time is in constant fear of being 
seen by her husband's relatives. Her employ- 
ment cannot long be kept secret where every 

IO4 The High-Caste Hindu Woman. 

one is on the lookout, and when discovered 
she is ridiculed, laughed at and even com- 
manded by the elders to leave off this non- 
sense. Her literary pursuits are now at an 
end unless the proceedings of the elders be 
interfered with by her progressive husband ; 
but alas, such husbands are extremely rare. 
Our schools, too, are not very attractive to 
children ; the teachers of primary schools, 
(and it is to these schools that girls are usually 
sent), are but nominally educated, and do not 
know how to make the lessons interesting for 
children. Consequently a great many of the 
girls who have been educated up to the second 
or third standard (grade) in these primary 
schools make it their business quickly to for- 
get their lessons as soon as they find an 
opportunity. Shut in from the world and 
destitute of the ability to engage in newspaper 
and useful book-reading, they have little or 
no knowledge of common things around them, 
and of the most important events that are 
daily occurring in their own or foreign lands. 

Condition of Women upon Society. 105 

Ignorant, unpatriotic, selfish and uncultivated, 
they drag the men down with them into the 
dark abyss where they dwell together without 
hope, without ambition to be something or to 
do something in the world. 

///. Native Women Teachers. American and 
English women as Zenana missionaries are 
doing all they can to elevate and enlighten 
India's daughters. These good people deserve 
respect and praise from all, and the heart-felt 
thanks of those for whose elevation they toil, 
but the disabilities of an unfriendly climate, 
and of an unknown tongue make it exceed- 
ingly difficult for them to enter upon their 
work for some time after reaching India ; and 
then, "what are these among so many?" 
They are literally lost among the nearly 
one hundred millions of women under British 
rule to whom must be added several millions 
more under Hindu and Mahommedan rule. 
In America and in England we hear encour- 
aging reports from mission fields, which state 
that a few thousand Hindu and Mahommedan 

io6 The High-Caste Hindu Woman. 

women and girls are being instructed in 
schools or in their own homes, but these seem 
as nothing, compared to the vast multitude 
of the female population of Hindustan. In 
a country where castes and the seclusion of 
women are regarded as essential tenets of the 
national creed, we can scarcely hope for a 
general spread of useful knowledge among 
women, through either men of their own race 
or through foreign women. All experience in 
the past history of mankind has shown that 
efforts for the elevation of a nation must come 
from within and work outward to be effectual. 
The one thing needful, therefore, for the 
general diffusion of education among women 
in India is a body of persons from among 
themselves who shall make it their life-work 
to teach by precept and example their fellow- 

The Appeal. 107 


IN the preceding chapters I have tried to 
tell my readers briefly the sad story of my coun- 
trywomen, and also to bring to their notice 
what are our chief needs. We, the women of 
India, are hungering and thirsting for know- 
ledge ; only education under God's grace, can 
give us the needful strength to rise up from 
our degraded condition. 

Our most pressing want and one which must 
immediately be met is women-teachers of our 
own nationality. How can these women-teach- 
ers be supplied ? I have long been thinking 
over this matter and now I am prepared to 
give answer. 

io8 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

Among the inhabitants of India, the high- 
caste people rank as the most intelligent ; 
they have been a refined and cultivated race 
for more than two thousand years. The 
women of these castes have been and still are 
kept in ignorance, yet they have inherited 
from their fathers to a certain degree, quick- 
ness of perception and intelligence. A little 
care and judicious education bestowed upon 
them will make many of them competent 
teachers and able workers. That this state- 
ment is not altogether visionary on my part, 
has been proven by the gratifying results of 
careful training in the person of Chandramukhi 
Bose, M. A., now lady principal of Bethune 
School, Calcutta, Kadambini B. Ganguli, B. A., 
M. B., and also others who have successfully 
passed their examinations in the Calcutta Uni- 
versity. The professors of the Woman's Medi- 
cal College of Pennsylvania will bear testimony 
to the ability of the late Dr. Anandibai Joshee. 
Had her life been spared a little longer she 
would have shown to the world that the Hin- 

The Appeal. 109 

du woman, in spite of all drawbacks equals 
any woman of civilized countries. 

Again, according to the census of 1881 
there were in India twenty million nine hun- 
dred and thirty thousand six hundred and 
twenty-six widows, of all ages and castes. 
Among these were six hundred and sixty-nine 
thousand one hundred widows under nine- 
teen years of age, viz. : 

Under nine years of age 78,976 

From 10 to 14 years of age. . . . 207,388 
From 15 to 19 years of age. . . . 382,736 


Girls of nine and ten, or thirteen years of 
age, whose betrothed husbands are dead, are 
virgin widows, and these, if of high-caste 
families, must remain single throughout life. 
Now if there were suitable educational institu- 
tions where young widows who might wish to 
be independent of their relatives and make an 
honest living for themselves, might go to be 
instructed in useful handiwork, and educated 
for teachers, many horrid occurrences might 

no The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

be prevented, and at the same time these wi- 
dows would prove a welcome blessing to their 
countrywomen. But alas ! institutions have 
not been founded anywhere in India where 
high-caste widows can receive shelter and edu- 

In the year 1866, an eminent English lady, 
Miss Mary Carpenter, made a short tour in 
India, with a view to find some way by which 
women's condition in that country might be 
improved. She at once discovered that the 
chief means by which the desired end might 
be accomplished was by furnishing women- 
teachers for the Hindu zenanas. She sug- 
gested that the British government should 
establish normal schools for training women- 
teachers and that scholarships should be awarded 
to girls in order to prolong their school-going 
period, and to assist indigent women, who 
would otherwise be unable to pursue their stu- 
dies. In response to Miss Carpenter's appeal 
upon her return to England, the British gov- 
ernment founded several schools for women in 

The Appeal. 1 1 1 

India, and in honor of this good lady a few 
" Mary Carpenter scholarships " were endowed 
by benevolent persons. These schools which 
I have personally inspected, were opened to 
women of every caste, and while they have 
undoubtedly been of use, they have not real- 
ized the hopes of their founder, partly because 
of the impossibility of keeping caste-rules in 
them, and partly on account of the inadequacy 
of the arrangements for attendance. When a 
high-caste widow takes it upon herself to go 
to school, she cannot hope, except in cases 
which are extremely rare, to receive any kind 
of help from her own relatives ; so she is 
thrown out a penniless, helpless, forlorn crea- 
ture to face the world alone. If then she is 
so fortunate as to be sheltered in a normal 
school and is awarded a studentship she finds 
this scarcely enough to keep her from star- 
vation, its money value being from twelve 
to twenty or twenty-five dollars per year ; but 
she cannot get even this scanty support from 
the educational department, unless she pass 

112 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

a certain examination. How can an illiterate 
widow hope to pass that examination ? 

Besides these government normal schools for 
women, of which at the present time, there 
are probably six throughout all India, there 
are a few foreign mission schools where a 
woman may find shelter and instruction, 
but if she be an orthodox Hindu by faith, 
and of a respectable family, she will on no 
account take refuge with people of a strange 
religion and country. There are exceptions of 
course to this statement, but as a rule, a high- 
caste Hindu woman prefers death to this alter- 
native. She knows that if she goes to live 
with missionaries she must lose caste, and that 
she must study their Bible, and perhaps in the 
end be induced to forsake her ancestral faith 
and embrace a strange one. No woman of 
any religion in which she firmly believes whe- 
ther it appear to others to be true or false, 
would violate her conscience simply for food 
and shelter. That the fear of being tempted 
to abjure one's religion for the sake of worldly 

The Appeal. 113 

gain should prevent many an excellent Hindu 
widow from going to foreign missionary schools 
is undoubted. She honestly believes that if her 
life is rendered intolerable by domestic misery 
she can drown herself in some sacred river by 
which deed she will not only escape the 
wretchedness of this life, but her past sins 
will be forgiven, and a place in heaven se- 
cured, but to forsake her ancestral religion 
under any circumstances would doom her to 
eternal perdition in the world to come. 

Is there then no way of helping and educat- 
ing these high-caste widows ? Can none of 
these obstacles be removed from her path? 
Yes ! they can be removed, and the course 
which in my judgment can most advantageous- 
ly be taken in order to succor the widows and 
the women of India in general, may be stated 
as follows : 

I. Houses should be opened for the young 
and high-caste child-widows where they can 
take shelter without the fear of losing their 

caste, or of being disturbed in their religious 

H4 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

belief and where they may have entire free- 
dom of action as relates to caste-rules, such as 
cooking of food, etc., provided they do not 
violate the rules or disturb the peace of the 
house wherein they have taken up their abode. 

II. In order to help them make an honor- 
able and independent living, they should be 
taught in these houses to be teachers, govern- 
esses, nurses and housekeepers, and should be- 
come skilled in other forms of hand-work, ac- 
cording to their taste and capacity. 

III. These houses should be under the 
superintendence and management of influential 
Hindu ladies and gentlemen, who should be 
pledged to make each house a happy home 
and an instructive institution for those who 
seek its opportunities. 

IV. The services of well-qualified American 
ladies as assistants and teachers should be se- 
cured in order to afford the occupants of the 
houses the combined advantage of Eastern and 
Western civilization and education. 

V. Libraries containing the best books on 

The Appeal. 115 

history, science, art, religions and other de- 
partments of literature should be established 
in these houses for the benefit of their inmates 
and of other women in their vicinity who may 
wish to read. Lectureships should also be 
established in the libraries, and the lecturers 
should be engaged with the distinct under- 
standing that they do not speak irreverently of 
any religion or sacred custom while lecturing 
in that house or library ; the lecturers should 
embrace in their topics, hygiene, geography, 
elementary science, foreign travel, etc., and 
the lectures should be designed primarily to 
open the eyes and ears of those who long have 
dwelt in the prison-house of ignorance, know- 
ing literally nothing of God's beautiful world. 

It is my intention after my return home 
(which I trust may be within a year from 
this time) to establish at least one such insti- 
tution. I am fully aware of the great respon- 
sibility the trial and it may be the failure 
will involve ; but as some one must make a 

n6 The High-Caste Hindu Woman. 

beginning, I am resolved to try, trusting that 
God, who knows the need of my country- 
women, will raise up able workers to forward 
this cause, whether I succeed in it or not. 
The great majority of my country-people be- 
ing most bitterly opposed to the education of 
women, there is little hope of my getting from 
them either good words or pecuniary aid. 

For the present it is useless to reason with 
high-caste Hindu gentlemen concerning this 
matter ; they only ridicule the proposal or 
silently ignore it. There are some among 
them who would certainly approve and would 
help to carry the idea into effect, but they 
must first realize its advantages and see its 
good results. One must have the power of 
performing miracles to induce this class of 
men to receive the gospel of society's well- 
being through the elevation of w r oman. Such 
a miracle I have faith to believe will be per- 
formed in India before the end of the next 
ten years, and if this be true, the enterprise 
will prove self-supporting after that period 

The Appeal. 117 

with only native aid. There is even now a 
handful of Hindus entertaining progressive 
ideas who are doing all they can to reform the 
religious and social customs of Hindustan, and 
who will, without doubt, support my work 
from the beginning ; but they have little with 
which to forward the cause except their per- 
sonal services. 

An institution of the kind indicated, where 
the pupils must be supported and the foreign 
teachers liberally paid for their services, cannot 
be founded and afterwards kept in a flourishing 
condition without money. Therefore I invite 
all good women and men of the United States 
to give me their help liberally in whatever way 
they may be able for a period of about ten 
years ; it is my solemn belief that it is the 
most sacred duty of those who dwell in this 
highly-favored land to bestow freely talents of 
whatever kind they may possess to help for- 
ward this educational movement. I venture 
to make this appeal because I believe that 
those who regard the preaching of the gospel 

1 1 8 The High- Caste Hindu Woman. 

of our Lord Jesus Christ to the heathen so 
important as to spend in its accomplishment 
millions of money and hundreds of valuable 
lives will deem it of the first importance to 
prepare the way for the spread of the gospel 
by throwing open the locked doors of the In- 
dian zenanas, which cannot be done safely 
without giving suitable education to the wo- 
men, whereby they will be able to bear the 
dazzling light of the outer world and the 
perilous blasts of social persecution. 

Mothers and fathers, compare the condition 
of your own sweet darlings at your happy fire- 
sides with that of millions of little girls of a 
corresponding age in India, who have already 
been sacrificed on the unholy altar of an in- 
human social custom, and then ask yourselves 
whether you can stop short of doing something 
to rescue the little widows from the hands of 
their tormentors. Millions of heart-rending 
cries are daily rising from within the stony 
walls of Indian zenanas ; thousands of child- 
widows are annually dying without a ray of 

The Appeal. 119 

hope to cheer their hearts, and other thou- 
sands are daily being crushed under a fearful 
weight of sin and shame, with no one to pre- 
vent their ruin by providing for them a better 

Will you not, all of you who read this book, 
think of these, my countrywomen, and rise, 
moved by a common impulse, to free them 
from life-long slavery and infernal misery? I 
beg you, friends and benefactors, educators and 
philanthropists, all who have any interest in 
or compassion for your fellow-creatures, let the 
cry of India's daughters, feeble though it be, 
reach your ears and stir your hearts. In the 
name of humanity, in the name of your sacred 
responsibilities as workers in the cause of hu- 
manity, and, above all, in the most holy name 
of God, I summon you, true women and men 
of America, to bestow your help quickly, re- 
gardless of nation, caste or creed. 


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